Chain Store ’98 Needs: More Shoppers, Better Staff

The industry’s big chains are coming off a good year, but they’re concerned profits could sour in 1998. The toughest challenges? Getting shoppers to spend more on jewelry and having the right staff to sell the merchandise For leading jewelry store chains in the U.S., 1997 was a good year. Zale Corp. and Sterling Inc., two of the nation’s largest retailers, expected to post healthy year-end earnings; Friedman’s, with 418 stores, projected a 23% boost in both sales and profits, in spite of failing to meet a target for comparable store sales; and Fred Meyer Jewelers, now with 260 outlets (including departments in 93 superstores), anticipated a 13% comparable store gain. (Official numbers for 1997 weren’t available at press time.) These chains and others project a bullish 1998, according to a JCK poll, but higher sales figures are far from guaranteed. First, these retailers mus

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