By Brecken Branstrator
Brisbane, Australia--After nearly a decade in the United States, jeweler Michael Hill International is shuttering its retail locations here and exiting the market.

The company launched in the U.S. in 2008, buying 17 stores in the Midwest from Whitehall Jewelers after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The stores have “struggled to provide a return for the group” since then, the company said, calling its operations here “loss-making.”

It closed about half its stores in the middle of the recession in 2010, then, five years later, tried again with a few new stores in the New York metro area.  

Michael Hill International said that despite new marketing initiatives to improve brand awareness and capture market share in the U.S., as well as an ongoing review of its store portfolio, the challenging retail environment of the market has “prevented it from improving its financial position.”

In its half-year fiscal results for the six-month period ended Dec. 31, the company said U.S. same-store sales were down 10 percent.

The jeweler said its remaining nine stores across the country—six in Illinois, one store in the Mall of America in Minnesota and two near New York City—will continue to operate as the company negotiates and completes the exit of its U.S. operations.

“Our time in the highly competitive U.S. jewelry market taught us a lot and helped to strengthen our core business, including the development of our bridal collection strategy and the development of our professional care plan,” CEO Phil Taylor said in a statement. “However, our U.S. operations have not gained sufficient traction in recent years and the level of capital required to scale-up the business is not warranted under current trading conditions.”
More information, including the financial impact of the closures and the number of employees that will be impacted, will be released at a later date.

After the U.S. stores close, Michael Hill International’s store count will number as follows: 172 in Australia, 53 in New Zealand and 83 in Canada.  

The company said its businesses across the three regions continue to perform strongly.

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