Signet jeweller reports profits decline

H Samuel and Ernest Jones jeweller Signet revealed a slump in first quarter earnings today after weak trading in America offset rising UK sales.

Pre-tax profits for the 13 weeks to May 3 sank 24% to 38.6m (€24.75m) as group like-for-like sales dropped 2.5%.

However UK like-for-like sales were up 5.3% during the period while Signet said “selective” price increases more than offset rising gold prices.

Chief executive Terry Burman said the UK division managed a good performance in the period, but warned the consumer downturn and demanding comparatives meant such like-for-like sales growth was unlikely to be sustained.

He also said the company’s Ernest Jones refurbishment programme would be scaled back, reducing the number of refits and relocations scheduled for the 2008/09 financial year from 46 to about 35.

Signet operated 1,966 jewellery stores at the start of May 2008, including 1,407 stores in the United States where it trades as Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry and under a number of regional names.

It has 559 stores in the UK, trading as H Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis.

Signet said the 4.7% decline in like-for-like sales in the United States reflected a continuing difficult trading environment, offset by better weather over Valentine’s Day.

It was encouraged by price increases implemented in the US in February and March, but said it would make a full evaluation in the summer.

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