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Thursday, August 29, 2013

US Sales Remain Strong At Signet Jewelers While UK Sales Disappoint

Signet Jewelers, the largest specialty retail jeweler in the US and the UK, said Thursday that second-quarter year-over-year sales increased 3.1 percent to $880.2 million. Same store sales for the period increased 3.6 percent year-over-year while eCommerce sales grew 7 percent to $31.2 million.

This was offset by a 1.2 percent decline in net income to $67.4 million. During a conference call Thursday, Mike Barnes, Signet CEO, said the decline was primarily due to the costs associated with the acquisition of the Ultra outlet jewelry store chain and the conversion of many of them to Zale Outlet stores, and lower gross margins compared to other Signet holdings. Without Ultra, earnings per share were up 5.9 percent.

In the company’s US division, which now accounts for nearly 85 percent of total sales for the company, sales increased 5.6 percent to $741.1 million. Same store sales increased 4.9 percent for the period. Sales increases were driven by strength in bridal, colored diamonds and watches. Signet owns 1,449 jewelry retail stores that operate under the brand-names Kay, Jared, Kay Outlet stores, Ultra and stores and some regional brands.

Kay and Jared experienced increases in both transaction counts and average transaction value. Meanwhile, eCommerce sales increased 36 percent to $25.3 million.

In the UK division, total sales declined 8.5 percent to $139.1 million in the second quarter. Same store sales decreased 2.4 percent. The company said the sales decline was primarily due to a same store sales decrease of $3.4 million, the impact of closed stores of $5.6 million and currency fluctuation of $3.9 million. Signet owns 500 retail stores that operate under the H.Samuel and Ernest Jones names.

The company said that at Ernest Jones, the number of transactions increased driven primarily by strength in branded bridal and watches, excluding Rolex, and the average transaction value was lower, primarily due to the impact from Rolex being offered in fewer stores. In H.Samuel, the number of transactions declined, primarily due to store closures and lower traffic. This resulted in lower sales across many merchandise categories, partly offset by strength in branded bridal products. Sales in both businesses were impacted by lower bead transactions. UK eCommerce sales in the UK increased 5.4 percent to $5.9 million, which include 45 percent coming to the websites through mobile devices, Barnes said.

Barnes noted during the conference call that Signet is in the process of updating its websites and mobile presence to take advantage of the increased traffic.

Other second quarter highlights:

* Gross margin declined, falling to $309.7 million or 35.2 percent of sales, compared to $311.2 million or 36.4 percent of sales in the second quarter fiscal 2013. The includes the results for Ultra increased gross margin dollars by $5.7 million; however, it reduced the consolidated gross margin rate by 50 basis points and the US gross margin rate by 70 basis points. The Ultra gross margin is lower than the core US business due to lower Ultra store productivity and the impact of the Ultra integration.

* Gross margin dollars in the US increased by $1.3 million compared to second quarter of fiscal 2013, reflecting higher sales offset by a gross margin decrease of 180 basis points. The company said the lower gross margin was primarily attributed to a gross merchandise margin decrease by 50 basis points, attributed to Ultra; and store occupancy and operating costs deleveraged by 70 basis points, of which 40 basis points was due to Ultra. The remaining 30 basis point change was due to the increase of new store openings.

* The US net bad debt ratio increased to 4.9 percent of sales compared to 4.5 percent of sales in prior year second quarter. The increase in the ratio was primarily due to the growth in the outstanding receivable balance. In addition, the US division experienced a “slight decline in collection efficiency” and a change in the credit mix. In the UK, gross margin dollars decreased $2.8 million, primarily reflecting the impact of decreased sales and currency fluctuation offset by a gross margin rate increase of 40 basis points.
* Selling, general and administrative expenses increased 4.2 percent to $250.5 million. As a percentage of sales, SGA increased by 40 basis points to 28.5 percent. This includes the results for Ultra, which increased SGA by $13.5 million and increased the consolidated SGA rate by 70 basis points. The company said Ultra’s SGA is expected to decline as the final steps of the integration are completed.

* Operating income fell 4.9 percent to $105.5 million. Operating margin declined 100 basis points to 12 percent.

* The US division’s operating income including Ultra declined 4.9 percent to $111.5.

* Operating margin for the US division including Ultra was 15 percent, compared with 16.7 percent in fiscal 2013, down 170 basis points. Excluding Ultra, the US division’s operating income was $119.3 or 16.8 percent of sales, up 10 basis points.

In its guidance, the company said it expects same store sales to rise in the low-single digit for the third quarter.

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