By Michelle Graff
A handful of the charms and necklaces available in the new Marilyn Monroe collection, which is sold at Zales stores. Both Zales and Marilyn Monroe were bright spots for Signet Jewelers this holiday season.
Akron, Ohio—The largest player in the jewelry industry recorded growth in comparable sales over the holiday season, fueled mainly by a double-digit increase in online sales.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. reported Thursday morning that in the nine-week period ended Jan. 4, total same-store sales inched up 1.6 percent, with comps in North America rising a full 2 percent.

Online sales are what drove the increase.

E-commerce sales reached $252.3 million, up 14 percent year-over-year, while comps at Signet’s brick-and-mortar stores in the U.K. and North America were essentially flat.

The payment plan participation rate, including both credit and leasing sales, declined year-over-year.

Signet said in April it planned to close 150 physical locations this fiscal year, which ends on Feb. 1.

That number has since increased to 165, with 38 stores opening for a net store reduction of 115.

Out of Signet’s traditional brick-and-mortar banners, Piercing Pagoda (comps up 7 percent), Zales (comps up 5 percent) and Canadian chain Peoples (comps up 5 percent) were the top performers.

Sales at Kay were flat, while Jared the Galleria of Jewelry saw comps slip 4 percent, and Signet’s regional banners recorded a 10 percent drop in same-store sales.

James Allen, which started as an online-only retailer but now has a couple physical locations, saw sales increase 27 percent.

Category-wise, Signet sold more bridal and fashion jewelry—lines like Neil Lane and Adrianna Papell bridal, the new Marilyn Monroe collection and Love + Be Loved—on the back of new product, while sales of beads and watches declined.

The company declined to comment on the performance of lab-grown diamonds, which it just started carrying in all its major U.S. stores this year, over the holiday season.

The number of transactions was up, while the average transaction value was flat.

Commenting on the company’s holiday season results, CEO Gina Drosos said: “We delivered holiday same-store sales growth ahead of guidance as we continued to implement year two of our ‘Path to Brilliance’ transformation.

“Product newness, investments in our digital capabilities and more targeted marketing campaigns drove both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar growth in North America.”

The retailer is increasing its financial guidance for the fiscal year to a same-store sales increase of 0.1 percent, with total sales reaching $6.1 billion.

Previously, Signet had forecast that same-store sales would decline as much as 2 percent.

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