By Michelle Graff
While all its stores were closed in the first quarter, Signet-owned chain Jared the Galleria of Jewelry launched virtual weddings. CEO Gina Drosos said that within 72 hours of the offer’s launch, 500 people signed up to get married online.
Akron, Ohio—Signet Jewelers Ltd. CEO Gina Drosos started the company’s earnings call Tuesday morning with a statement about the civil unrest sweeping the nation following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“While these are truly unprecedented times, from the COVID-19 pandemic to economic uncertainty, nothing has matched the pain and heartache of yet another brutal murder of an unarmed person of color,” she said.

“This pattern of discrimination and violence must stop now. Racism has no place in our world, and certainly not in a country dedicated to protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.”

Drosos made her company’s stance public in a LinkedIn post last week, and Signet has made a $100,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Drosos said Tuesday she is hosting an open mic town hall-style meeting with Signet team members next week. Called Signet Speaks Out, it will be a “frank discussion on race” intended to give the retailer ideas for actions it can take within the company, in communities and in the jewelry industry.

“At Signet, our mission is to ‘Celebrate Life and Express Love,’ and we are committed to making this true for all people,” Drosos said.

Signet started the year with “strong momentum,” recording “solid” year-over-year comps at the end of February, with a low-single-digit increase in same-store sales.

Then COVID-19 hit and the retailer made the decision to close all its stores in North America, furloughing the majority of store and support center employees and cutting executive salaries, in late March.

Signet ended the first quarter, which ended May 2, with a 39 percent year-over-year decline in same-store sales, while total sales dropped 40 percent to $852.1 million compared with $1.43 billion last year.

E-commerce sales were up 7 percent to $164.7 million including the impact of the temporary closure of the James Allen distribution center in New York, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excluding the shutdown, Signet saw online sales climb 18 percent, including a 55 percent increase in April.

In North America, same-store sales were down 39 percent. Average transaction value declined 7 percent while the number of transactions was down 35 percent.

Payment plan participation rate, including both credit and leasing sales, for Q1 was 43 percent versus 50 percent in the first quarter last year, reflecting both the greater proportion of online sales and macroeconomic conditions.

Signet recorded a loss of $291 million in the quarter.

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As it did with so many retailers, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Signet to take a hard look at its fleet of physical stores while also upgrading its online capabilities.

During the call, Drosos cited a quote from a “sage” mentor of hers—“Never waste a crisis”—and ran through a list of the changes Signet is making.

The retailer, which closed 13 percent of its stores last year, moving out of Class B malls and shuttering its regional banners, will not reopen at least 150 stores in North America and 80 in Europe following the pandemic.

In addition, Signet will close an additional 150 stores this fiscal year, resulting in a 20 percent reduction in its physical footprint.

As of Feb. 1, Signet operated a total of 3,208 stores, 2,757 in North America and 451 in the U.K.

Drosos said in deciding which locations to close, the company mapped the country in a Greenfield analysis—a method of determining the optimal number of store locations based on demand—to determine which markets warrant one store, two stores, etc.

“We’ve used that customer-first lens to decide what our future store footprint should look like,” she said.

Online in Q1, Signet launched virtual consultations, conducting over 100,000 in the period, while also making progress on targeted marketing efforts and having a “more relevant and curated” merchandise mix.

Drosos also mentioned the virtual weddings offered by Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, saying the retailer had 500 people sign up to get married online in 72 hours.

Signet has begun reopening stores and Drosos said the retailer will have at least 75 percent of its locations open by the end of the month. It is using a “hyperlocal” approach to reopening stores, heeding guidance from local authorities.

She said for the stores that have reopened, revenue is covering operating costs on a four-wall basis.

Signet is not providing guidance for FY 2021 due to the “continuing level of uncertainty.”

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