UK sales fail to sparkle for Signet

The owner of Ernest Jones and H Samuel delivered a blow to hopes of returning to growth in the UK yesterday after it revealed that sales slowed over the key Christmas trading period.

Jewellery firm Signet reported a 4.2 per cent fall in UK same-store sales in the last nine weeks of 2010, which represents a worsening performance from the previous quarter when sales were down 0.6 per cent.

Sales at Ernest Jones and sister chain Leslie Davis were down 5.9 per cent whereas last year they were up 0.2 per cent, and trading at H Samuel declined 2.8 per cent.

The US-headquartered group became the latest retailer to blame the Arctic weather for the decline in sales in the UK, which accounts for about a fifth of its total revenues.

Sales declined despite the average price paid for an item of its jewellery having increased 4.9 per cent to 81 compared with a year ago, driven by gold prices which rose by a third in the year.

Its UK business reported strong demand for gold rings and charm bracelets, which it introduced last year and are cheaper than most of its ranges, it said.

Earlier this year Signet said it hoped its UK business had started to turn the corner after it improved on a 2.4 per cent sales decline in the year to January 2010 with a 0.1 per cent decline in the first seven weeks of its financial year.

In the first three quarters of the year sales were down 0.5 per cent as the rate of decline slowed compared to the previous year but the most recent figures have dragged the year-to-date figures down to 1.7 per cent. The retailer has a total of 544 stores in the UK.