Updated from 9:45 a.m. EST

Movado Group

(MOVA)

said Friday that its chief operating officer had resigned.

It also announced strong holiday same-store sales and reaffirmed its decision to expand its stores in fiscal 2001.

Michael Bush, executive vice president and chief operating officer, will resign after a five-year tenure, effective Jan. 31, "to pursue other opportunities," the company said. Bush, 39, will also relinquish his seat on the board of directors.

No replacement was announced. However, Richard Cote, 45, has been named to the newly created position of executive vice president of finance and administration, effective Jan. 17. He will report to Efraim Grinberg, Movado group president, with responsibility for a wide-ranging brief including corporate finance, information services, the outlet store division and some international subsidiaries.

Cote will join from

Colgate-Palmolive

(CL) - Get Report

, where he has worked for 15 years, most recently as chief financial officer of Colgate's U.S. division.

Movado, based in Lyndhurst, N.J., also said its sales at stores open a year or more rose 27.4% in December. For 1999, same-store sales rose 22.2%. The vibrant sales numbers have underscored Movado's commitment to expand its number of retail boutiques. There are currently five boutiques and analyst Margaret Whitfield of

Tucker Anthony Cleary Gull

estimates the company will eventually open 30 to 40 stores total by rolling out five to ten stores a year.

Whitfield rates Movado a strong buy and her firm has not done any underwriting for the company.

Scott Ornstein, 37, has been named to lead the store expansion as president of Movado Retail Boutiques, another newly created position, effective Jan. 10. Ornstein joins from

Brookstone

(BKST)

, where he worked as vice president/general merchandise manager from 1997 to 1999. He has experience with catalog and Internet sales, which fits well with Movado's launch of both a catalog and website.

Analysts viewed the expansion strategy in a positive light. "There is room in the mall for another jewelry store," commented Whitfield. "They'll also introduce a broader array of merchandise, including new jewelry concepts and home accessories."

"The transition from a manufacturer to a retailer should help, too, as people will be more interested in the stock and it may then command a higher valuation," added Anthony, who noted that it is only trading at below 10 times her fiscal 2001 earnings per share estimate of $2.25.

Movado was up 7/16, or 2%, to 21 5/8 in early trading Friday, and has fallen 21% in the last 12 months. Though many high-end retailers reported better-than-expected same-store sales numbers Thursday, their shares ended down on fears that rising interest rates could cool the economy and slow, or even cease, purchases of luxury items. (Movado closed Friday up 15/16, or 4%, to 22 1/16.)