Signet Jewelers dominance of the U.S. jewelry market is undeniable. It is by far the largest and most diverse fine jewelry retailer in the U.S. To add to its U.S. success, the company also is the largest jewelry retailer in Canada and the U.K., with more than 3,600 stores in the three countries.
However, it is in the U.S. where its dominance is the most formidable where it operates the three leading brands in various market categories:
* Kay Jewelers, which serves the mid market and is the largest specialty retail jewelry store in the US based on sales with more than 1,000 stores in 50 states;
* Zales, diamond jewelry specialists with more than 700 U.S. stores and 10 stores in Puerto Rico; and
* Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry, upper-middle market jewelry retailer with more than 250 free-standing stores in 39 states.
Signet’s strength was reinforced Thursday as the company reported that sales rose 3.2 percent to $1.58 billion and comparable store sales increased 2.4 percent, year-over-year, for the first quarter of fiscal 2017. More importantly for shareholders the company said diluted earnings per share grew a remarkable 26.4 percent and adjusted EPS grew an equally impressive 20.4 percent for the same period.
Signets results followed a disappointing earnings report from Tiffany & Co. a day earlier where the luxury jeweler saw total sales in the Americas fall by 9 percent to $403 million and comparable store sales declined 10 percent, year-over-year.
Mark Light, Signet Jewelers CEO, credits its promotions, tight operating margins and real estate management for the solid sales and earnings results at a time when the U.S. jewelry industry on the macro level continues to be choppy.
“We gained profitable market share despite a challenging retail environment through strong sales of ‘Ever Us’ and other fashion jewelry collections as well as select branded bridal,” Light said. “Our 26 percent EPS growth was driven by higher same store sales and total sales along with solid expense management and synergies, leading to 190 basis points of operating margin expansion. In addition to delivering earnings results at the top end of our guided range, we achieved sales growth across real estate formats and in each of our divisions and our credit metrics showed strong sequential improvement.”
Signet’s dominant U.S. performance from its major brands hasn’t rubbed off on the handful of regional U.S. brands it owns and its Canadian operation. Its U.K. business showed improvement this quarter. Regardless, Signet's major U.S. brands account for approximately 83 percent of total sales for the company, so the drag from its smaller operations hasn’t had much of an effect on its bottom line.
Other financial highlights for the first quarter of fiscal 2017 include:
* Ecommerce sales increased 4.2 percent to $80.1 million, accounting for 5.1 percent of total sales.
* Overall, average transaction value was higher and number of transactions was lower due to merchandise mix.
* Comparable store sales for Sterling Jewelers (which includes Kay, Jared and regional brands) increased 2.3 percent, ATV increased 5.7 percent and the number of transactions decreased 5.6 percent. “This was driven principally by strong sales of select branded bridal jewelry as well as fashion jewelry and lower sales of Charmed Memories and low-priced promotional items, which tend to drive more transactions,” the company said.
* Comparable store sales for Zale Jewelry (dominated primarily by Zales in the U.S. and several Canadian retail brands) increased 2 percent, ATV increased 5.8 percent, while the number of transactions decreased 3.7 percent. “This was driven primarily by strong sales of diamond fashion jewelry as well as branded bridal and lower sales of low-priced promotional items which tend to drive more transactions.”
* Comparable store sales for Piercing Pagoda (its mall kiosk operation) increased 5.6 percent, ATV increased 13.7 percent, while the number of transactions decreased 6.9 percent. “The higher sales were driven principally by strong sales of gold chains and diamond jewelry. Transactions declined primarily due to fewer piercings.”
* Comparable store sales for Signet's UK jewelry operation increased 3.4 percent, ATV increased 4.3 percent and the number of transactions decreased 1 percent. “This was driven principally by strong sales of diamond jewelry and prestige watches. Transactions declined due primarily to beads and fashion watches.”
It has been two years since Signet closed the acquisition of Zale, its former biggest rival, and Light said the “integration continues to go extremely well across all aspects of our business. The synergies we expect to deliver this year will be mostly driven by operating expense savings as a result of the sound investments and strategic management of the integration over the past couple of years.”
He continued: “Learnings from our customer segmentation study and business results since the acquisition have validated our growth assumptions, and we have an enviable position with the three leading U.S. brands in a heavily fragmented and growing middle market jewelry industry. We are pursuing the opportunity to grow square footage both near-term, driven principally by Kay, and medium-term driven more by Zales.”
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