British stores show improvement in first weeks of new financial year.

Like-for-like sales at Signet’s UK stores fell 2.4 percent and total sales fell 9.3 percent in the year to January 30, as high gold prices and the weak pound hit the retail group.

The UK division, which includes retail chains Ernest Jones, H Samuel and Leslie Davis, represents 22 percent of Signet’s total business. Total sales in the UK in the 12 months to January 30 were US$733.2 million (£490.9 million).


UK sales showed some improvement towards the end of the year showing a decline of 1.5 percent in the final quarter compared with a 3 percent drop in the first three quarters of the group’s 2010 fiscal year.

Sales decline has slowed further in the first seven weeks of Signet’s fiscal year 2010, with like-for-likes down 0.1 percent in the UK.

Total group results fared better with like-for-like sales dropping just 0.4 percent in the period. Signet chief executive Terry Burman said that the group benefitted from a weakened US market in which its competitors were less aggressive due to financial restraints.

In the next 12 months Signet said that its focus was on achieving a free cash flow of between US$150 million and US$200 million (£100.4 million to £133.8 million), which is lower than the level achieved in the past year.

Burman said: “We are pleased with our fiscal 2010 results, which were ahead of our January expectations and substantially exceeded our objectives set at the start of the year.

“We believe that our strategy remains especially appropriate in the current uncertain economic environment. Solid execution of this strategy should help us achieve a further profitable market share increase, which would build on our ten year record that has seen our US market share almost double to 9.4 percent in fiscal 2010.”