By Michelle Graff
Brisbane, Australia--Australian jeweler Michael Hill has moved beyond the Midwest with the opening of a store in Queens Center in Elmhurst, N.Y., its first location in the Empire State. 

Michael Hill also said it has secured a spot to open a store at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, N.Y. Roosevelt Field is the same mall where Blue Nile has its store, a “webroom concept experience” where customers can try on--but not buy--merchandise, and where there is one of the new Le Vian by Jared stores.

In addition, Michael Hill said it plans to open a store at the American Dream Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., though that project has run into numerous delays and remains under construction. 

The opening of the stores in Queens and Long Island, plus the planned New Jersey location, would bring the retailer’s store count in the U.S. market to 11. 

After opening its first U.S. store in 2008, Michael Hill continues to lose money here and still views it as a test market, though it did spend to advertise its “We’re for Love” campaign during the Super Bowl this past February, and its fiscal year 2015 results released this week showed that year-over-year comps were positive.

Michael Hill said it views the U.S. market as providing the “largest growth opportunity for the future.”    

Same-store U.S. sales increased 4 percent during the fiscal year ended June 30. Total sales were up 13 percent, from $10 million to $11.3 million, which included the opening of the additional store. 

Operating loss totaled $1.9 million, up from $1.7 million last year but in line with expectations.

The retailer said its focus in the North American market is developing bridal and fashion collections as well as a competitive in-house credit program, and opening in high-end malls with strong traffic and retail mixes. 

A “large proportion” of the engagement rings Michael Hill sells in North America are sold on credit, and the retailer also noted that it sells more branded jewelry in the U.S. than in any other market, with brands accounting for 31 percent of total sales here. 

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