Signet Jewellers has announced that over 80 of its UK stores will not be reopening post-lockdown.
Following an analysis of the business during the global pandemic, the retail giant, which owns H Samuel and Ernest Jones in the UK, has announced that 82 stores will remain permanently shut, with the company looking to close additional stores before the year end.
The 82 stores represent 17% of its UK store estate based on the total portfolio of 477 sites given in its most recent set of publically-available annual accounts. Of the stores closing, 38 are from the Ernest Jones portfolio, while 44 H Samuel boutiques will exit the high street.
Signet says the store closures form part of the firm’s plan to accelerate its Path to Brilliance programme and come out stronger from the pandemic.
A statement from Signet Jewellers says: “The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly altered the retail climate and the company is navigating that change by accelerating its application of the key Path to Brilliance initiatives.
“The Company’s culture of agility and efficiency has always encompassed the optimisation of its physical footprint. Following an in-depth greenfield study as part of Path to Brilliance, the Company has conducted further analysis during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to emerge as a stronger and more efficient organisation.
“As a first step under this accelerated initiative, the company will not reopen at least 150 North America stores and 80 UK stores. Further, Signet is committed to closing at least an additional 150 stores by the end of the fiscal year.”
Signet says landlord discussions, including rent deferrals and abatements, as well as store level analysis remain ongoing as the company assesses the future shape of Signet.
The news comes as part of Signet’s Q1 results, which reveal a 37.5% decrease in sales in the UK for the 13 weeks ending May 2,2020.
While brick and mortar same store sales declined by 46.6% in the first quarter of the year, e-commerce sales grew by 37.2%.
With this in mind, the company is looking to hasten plans to become digital-first.
“Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, we have prioritised the health and safety of our team members and customers with every decision we make,” says Signet’s chief executive officer, Virginia C. Drosos. “Our excellent team, operating in a culture of agility and efficiency, has been integral in allowing us to rapidly adapt and respond to this environment, building on the first two years of our Path to Brilliance strategy and accelerating our transformation into a digital-first, omni-channel retailer.
“We began our fiscal year with strong Valentine’s Day sales performance, and then quickly pivoted and further adapted our eCommerce operating model to serve customers during stay-at-home restrictions with new technology, virtual consultation and selling solutions. We are gathering valuable insights on customer behaviours and plan to use these learnings to enhance our competitive advantage and emerge stronger from the crisis with optimised virtual and physical footprints to meet our customers where and how they choose to shop.
“We have moved forward in our digital journey while also making significant progress controlling costs, prioritizing investments to drive sustainable growth, and preserving liquidity.”
In the UK, Signet will be expanding its personal shopping service, which has been trialed with Ernest Jones.
In Mat, Ernest Jones launched an online personal shopping service – Live Advice – that enables store colleagues to serve customers at home through a one-way HD live video feed. By late June, the service will expand to hsamuel.co.uk. Using the technology, the company’s UK-based watch and jewellery experts can showcase products, provide demonstrations and offer tailored recommendations on a one-to-one basis.
“With the introduction of Live Advice, we’ve also transformed how we bring our digital and in-store shopping experiences together to provide a truly first-class experience for our customers no matter how they choose to shop with us,” Signet UK managing director, Neil Old says. “We understand the importance of creating connections for our customers, so we have reimagined the jewellery buying experience since temporarily closing stores to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Live Advice has provided us with a simple and safe way to engage with our customers through a challenging few months, and enabled customers to access the exceptional, trusted advice and 5-star level of personalised service they’ve come to expect from their favourite jeweller.”
For the stores that are reopening, staff are trained and ready to serve customers on accordance to social distancing measures.
As part of plans to follow government guidelines, Ernest Jones and H Samuel stores will only let a limited number of customers in store at a time and hand sanitising stations will be available for use.
Furthermore, all jewellery and watches will be cleaned before and after they are handled, and both H. Samuel and Ernest Jones will be encouraging contactless payments, and offering digital e-receipts on all purchases.