Signet’s worst performer over the holiday season in North America? Jared the Galleria of Jewelry stores, where comps dropped 8 percent. CEO Gina Drosos said department store discounting and lack of interest in “legacy” lines hurt Signet this season.
Akron, Ohio—Signet rolled out new product, new commercials, ramped up digital marketing and improved its websites, but it was not enough to counter department store discounting and declining interest in lines that were once bestsellers.

In the nine-week period ended Jan. 5, Signet Jewelers Ltd.’s same-store sales (including stores in both North America and the United Kingdom) slipped 1 percent year-over-year, with brick-and-mortar comps down 2 percent but online sales growing 6 percent to $222.3 million.

Total sales dropped 3 percent to $1.84 billion.

“Our holiday season performance fell short of our expectations,” CEO Gina Drosos said in the company’s earnings release issued Thursday morning.

Signet warned in early December that department store discounting was going to be a problem, and Drosos said Thursday that promotions “intensified” as the month wore on.

Despite Signet’s attempt to keep up by holding sales, stores were not crowded enough during the key weeks of December and there was a larger-than-expected drop in sales of lines like LeVian and Ever Us, while newer lines such as Enchanted Disney Fine Jewelry and Love + Be Loved performed well.

Drosos said: “These holiday results reinforce the need to take even faster action to improve our financial and operational performance. We will move decisively to improve profitability through aggressively optimizing our cost structure and continuing to right-size our store base, as well as more effectively managing our inventory.”

In North America, which includes mall staples Zales and Kay Jewelers as well as Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, holiday comps were down 0.7 percent.

Piercing Pagoda continued to be Signet’s top performer, with sales there jumping 17 percent. Peoples (comps up 5 percent) and Zales (comps up 3 percent) also saw sales increase.

Outside of the regional brand stores Signet is in the process of closing, Jared recorded the worst performance, with holiday comps dropping 8 percent while same-store sales at Kay and James Allen slipped 0.8 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In light of its holiday performance, Signet revised its fourth quarter guidance—it now expects comps to be down as much as 3 percent—and is projecting flat same-store sales for the fiscal year.

The retailer is scheduled to report its fourth quarter and full year earnings on March 14 and will provide an update on its plans for FY 2020 then, Drosos said.

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