By Lenore Fedow
Same-store sales at Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, one of the chains owned by Signet Jewelers, fell more than 8 percent in the fourth quarter.
Akron, Ohio—Signet Jewelers Ltd. had a lackluster fourth quarter as weak holiday sales took a toll and demand waned for its legacy merchandise.

Quarterly revenue totaled $2.15 billion, dipping 6 percent compared with the $2.29 billion reported in the previous fourth quarter.

Same-store sales, a figure that includes both online and in-store sales, slipped 2 percent, an improvement compared with the 5 percent decline in comparable sales a year ago, with online outperforming in-store sales.

Quarterly e-commerce sales were up more than 5 percent to $260.6 million, accounting for 12 percent of overall sales compared with 11 percent last year, while brick-and-mortar same-store quarterly sales were down 3 percent.

The retailer recorded an operating loss of $83.5 million, or about 4 percent of sales, compared with an operating income of $323.5 million, or about 14 percent of sales, in the prior year’s fourth quarter.

The operating loss was attributed in part to a goodwill and intangible impairment charge of $286.7 million.

The charge consisted of a $261.4 million write-down of the James Allen assets due to the increasingly competitive online marketplace and Supreme Court’s ruling on online sales tax collection, as well as $25.3 million related to the company’s acquisition of its diamond polishing factory in Botswana.

Lower sales, higher promotions, a $27.1 million charge related to store closings and a $13.1 million charge related to the outsourcing of its credit program also contributed to the company slipping into the red in the fourth quarter.

In North America, Piercing Pagoda was the star of the quarter with same store sales climbing more than 17 percent. Zales trailed behind with same-store sales up 2 percent.

The rest of the brands didn’t fare as well, with same-store sales at James Allen down more than 1 percent, Kay down nearly 2 percent, and Jared dropping more than 8 percent.

Customers were drawn to the retailer’s new additions, but less interested in its legacy collections.

Overall bridal sales were flat on a same-store sales basis, with sales of engagement rings rising but anniversary sales falling, which the retailer attributed to declining interest in its “Ever Us” collection.

Top performers included solitaires, and the Enchanted Disney fine jewelry, Vera Wang Love and Neil Lane collections.

Overall sales in the fashion category dipped with LeVian and other legacy collections leading the decline.

However, gold fashion jewelry, Disney fashion jewelry, and the Love + Be Loved collection performed well.

Sales in the “others” category, which includes company-owned bead brands and Pandora, were down as well.

Signet Jewelers is in the midst of a three-year turnaround plan aimed to cut costs to spur future growth.

As part of its cost-cutting efforts, Signet offered a “voluntary transition program” to its more than 3,000 corporate employees in Akron, Ohio and Dallas earlier this year.

The retailer has a cost-savings figure it wants to hit via the voluntary transition program; if it does not achieve that figure, then layoffs will follow.

Asked about the program Wednesday, Signet Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Bouffard said:
“The VTP program ran through late March, we’ll be evaluating the results in mid-April, and departures will be held by the end of the month.”

The company also will close its manufacturing facility in Dallas, cutting 122 jobs.

Signet reported $85 million of net cost savings in its fiscal year.

CEO Virginia Drosos said in a company statement that while the company made progress with the program initiatives it did not finish the year “as strongly as expected.”

She pointed to a highly competitive promotional environment, consumer weakness in the UK, lower-than-expected customer demand for legacy merchandise collections, and a weak holiday season as contributing factors.

For the full fiscal year, Signet’s revenue was down slightly to $6.24 billion compared with $6.25 billion in the previous year.

However, same-store sales recovered somewhat, slipping just 0.1 percent compared with a more than 5 percent dip a year ago.

Looking to fiscal 2020, the company said it plans to take a “faster” and more “aggressive” approach to its transformation plan, strategically reducing its number of stores and reducing its exposure to “lower-grade malls,” said executives during its earning call.

For the first time in its history, the company plans to spend more on digital and social advertising than on TV advertising in fiscal 2020, according to executives on the earnings call.

Sales are expected to be between $6-$6.1 billion with same-store sales flat at best.

First quarter sales are projected to be between $1.42-$1.44 billion with same-store sales projected to be down at least a half-percent.

Also on Wednesday, an 8-K filing revealed that Chief Customer Officer Sebastian Hobbs is expected to step down as of April 4 but will stay on as an advisor until the end of June.

Newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Joan M. Hilson, former CFO of David’s Bridal and American Eagle Outfitters, is expected to begin this month.

Signet also has assembled a “Mall Leadership” team, combining the leadership of its Kay, Zales, and Peoples banners under one umbrella.

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