Winter Weather, Declining Engagements Weigh on Signet’s Results

FinancialsMar 16, 2023

Winter Weather, Declining Engagements Weigh on Signet’s Results

The jewelry giant’s full-year sales were essentially flat, brought down by fourth-quarter declines.

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An 18-karat white gold 1.38 total carat weight emerald-cut diamond engagement ring ($6,999) from the Monique Lhuillier “Bliss” collection at Signet Jewelers banner Kay Jewelers. The jewelry company posted 0.2 percent sales growth in fiscal 2023.
Akron, Ohio—Signet Jewelers Ltd. closed out fiscal 2023 on a muted note, with full-year sales flat and fourth-quarter sales down slightly.

The jewelry giant, which is the parent company of several large jewelry store chains including Zales, Jared, and Kay Jewelers, remains hopeful for its current fiscal year, planning up to $200 million in capital investments.

“We delivered on our three key priorities of growing market share, achieving an annual double-digit non-GAAP operating margin, and leveraging capital allocation to drive shareholder returns despite headwinds and volatility throughout the year," said CEO Virginia C. Drosos.

Here are five things to know about its recent earnings report, released Thursday morning.

Signet had a solid year, but a weak fourth quarter.

For the quarter ending Jan. 28, Signet’s sales totaled $2.67 billion, down 5 percent year-over-year. Same-store sales were down 9 percent.

Sales growth in the quarter was negatively impacted by inclement weather in the United States just before the Christmas season, the company said.

Cross-country Winter Storm Elliott brought hazardous weather from Dec. 21-26, cutting into some of the biggest shopping days of the holiday season.

“During three of the highest revenue days of the year, Winter Storm Elliot caused one-third of our stores to close or operate at reduced hours. Consumers in three-fourths of our trade areas were under a travel advisory warning,” said Drosos on an earnings call Thursday morning.

“These days are eight times more valuable than an average shopping day in January, for example, in a way that is unique to jewelry,” she said, adding that last-minute shoppers are crucial, typically spending more than average and shopping in person.

In the U.K. market, labor strikes and a weakened British pound took a toll, said Signet.

The jeweler was also up against challenging comps, with government benefit programs and its marketing initiatives bolstering Q4 sales in the previous fiscal year.

Sales were up 24 percent compared with pre-pandemic fiscal 2020, which ended Feb. 1, 2020.

The fourth quarter in fiscal 2023 also marked the first to include the integration of recently acquired Blue Nile.

“Blue Nile contributed to our total growth and performed ahead of sales and profit expectations in its first full quarter as part of our portfolio,” said Drosos.

In North America, Signet’s banners include Zales and Kay Jewelers as well as Peoples in Canada.

Signet’s fourth-quarter sales in the region totaled $2.5 billion, down 9 percent year-over-year, but up 28 percent compared to 2020.

Same-store sales were down 9 percent, but up 20 percent compared to 2020, which Signet attributed to higher transaction values being offset by fewer transactions year-over-year.

Signet’s international banners include Ernest Jones and H. Samuels.

International sales totaled $153.2 million, down 16 percent year over-year and down 18 percent compared with 2020. Same-store sales were down 7 percent in the quarter.

For the full year, sales totaled $7.8 billion, up 0.2 percent year-over-year and up 28 percent compared with 2020. Same-store sales were down 6 percent.

In North America, full-year sales totaled $7.29 billion, up 0.3 percent, while same-store sales fell 7 percent.

Internationally, full-year sales were $470.1 million, down 5 percent year-over-year, while same-store sales fell 8 percent.

Engagement ring sales struggled, while fashion jewelry shined.

Last year was the year of the wedding, and Signet posted strong growth in sales of wedding bands and other bridal jewelry.

However, sales of engagement rings were down by low double digits for the year, a pattern Signet expects to repeat in fiscal 2024, said Drosos.

The shift is temporary and COVID-driven, she said, noting the pandemic impacted the formation of new relationships. 

Signet’s data found engagements occur typically within 3 years of a couple dating, so a rebound is expected to begin at the end of the next fiscal year.

“We expect FY24 to be the trough of engagements with FY25 seeing a return to growth and FY26 returning to normalized levels,” she said.

Bridal, including engagement, has accounted for 47 to 49 percent of Signet’s merchandise sales over the last five years, said Signet.

In anticipation of the decline in engagement ring sales, Drosos said the company heightened its focus on sentimental gifting and self-purchasing. 

Fashion drove nearly 36 percent of growth since pre-pandemic, she said.

“We continue to see strength at higher price points overall. The strength of our fashion assortment continues, helping to partially offset the expected decline in bridal.”

 Related stories will be right here … 

Signet is updating its store fleet.

Signet announced plans to spend up to $200 million in capital investments, with half of that amount going toward its store network.

The funds will go toward expanding new stores and repositioning or closing low-performing stores.

Signet has closed more than 1,000 underperforming stores in the last six years, said Drosos.

There also will be sustainability investments, like LED lighting and modern HVAC systems, as well as cosmetic upgrades for stores in key markets.

Signet will introduce new accessible luxury concepts at Jared, shifting to higher price points.

It also will accelerate recently acquired Diamond Direct’s growth, doubling the pace of store openings and leaning into the “mega-store model.”

The company also will bring new modular concepts to Kay Jewelers after a successful pilot, which would mean lower inventory and build-out costs compared with a more traditional store.

“Given our breadth, we’re able to serve accessible luxury customers, digitally native customers, and value-conscious customers in a scaled way that no other company in our industry can,” said Drosos.

Looking ahead, Signet remains confident despite strong macroeconomic headwinds.

Signet has begun its new fiscal year with cautious confidence.

For the first quarter, sales are expected to be $1.62 billion to $1.65 billion.

Full-year sales are projected to be $7.67 billion to $7.84 billion, notably coming in below fiscal 2023.

Signet said annual U.S. jewelry industry revenue is expected to be down mid-single digits, adding that its guidance accounts for market share gains against the industry’s performance range.

“With the slowing economy and continued inflationary pressures we do not expect to see a rebound in the lower price point consumer in the coming year,” said Signet.

The company also expects to see a continued shift of discretionary spending away from the jewelry category, due in part to declining consumer confidence and “pent-up demand” for experiences, as well as inflation and other macroeconomic factors.

Signet has reshuffled its executives.

Signet started off 2023 by shaking up its executive team.

Jamie Singleton, formerly president of Zales, Kay, and Peoples, was named group president and chief consumer officer.

Her former title of chief marketing officer was given to Tony Rogers.

Bill Brace, formerly president of Jared, has been promoted to president of Kay Jewelers.

Claudia Cividino was named the new president of Jared.

Kecia Caffie, formerly the president of Banter by Piercing Pagoda, is now president of Zales.

Amy Robinson took on the role of president of Banter by Piercing Pagoda.

Stacee Johnson Williams, formerly senior vice president of Kay, Zales and Peoples, was promoted to managing director of Peoples and senior vice president of merchandise planning and inventory at Kay.

Read a full list of the executive changes here.

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