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Signet Jewelers Ltd. (SIG)

F1Q13 Earnings Conference Call

May 24, 2012 08:30 am ET


Michael Barnes - Chief Executive Officer

Ronald Ristau - Chief Financial Officer

Tim Jackson - Director, Investor Relations


Bill Armstrong - C.L. King & Associates

David Wu - Telsey Advisory Group

Jennifer Davis - Lazard Capital Markets

Rick Patel - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Jeff Stein - Northcoast Research

Anthony Lebiedzinski - Sidoti & Co.

Jessica Schoen - Barclays Capital

Susan Sansbury - Miller Tabak + Co., LLC

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Rodney Whitehead - Deutsche Bank

James Pan - CP&E Partners



Good day and welcome to the Signet Jewelers’ First Quarter Results 2012 Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded.

At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Tim Jackson. Please go ahead, sir.

Tim Jackson

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Good morning and welcome. Thank you, Operator. Welcome to the conference call for Signet’s first quarter fiscal 2013 results. This is Tim Jackson, Investor Relations Director talking. With me are Mike Barnes, CEO and Ron Ristau, CFO. The presentation deck we will be talking to is available from the webcast section of the Company’s website,

I will now give the Safe Harbor statement. During today’s presentation, we will in places discuss Signet’s business outlook and make certain forward-looking statements. Any statements that are not historical facts are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties and actual results may differ materially. We urge you to read the risk factors cautionary language and other disclosure in the annual report on Form 10-K that was filed with the SEC on March 22, 2012. We also draw your attention to this slide.

I will now hand over to Mike.

Michael Barnes

Thanks Tim, and good morning to everyone. We delivered strong financial results in the first quarter, and increased our earnings per share by 10.3% to $0.96. We anticipated the impact of the calendar shift as discussed on our last call and managed our business including expenses accordingly, leading to this double-digit earnings increase.

I’d like to thank all at Signet who contributed third-party these record results. In the second quarter to-date, which benefited from the calendar shift our same-store sales including Mother’s Day, were up strong double-digits reflecting the customers broad acceptance of our merchandised offerings, our great customer experience and the effectiveness of our advertising, all of which we consider to be core competitive strengths. I will speak more specifically about Mother’s Day in a moment.

Our results year-to-date and our consistent ability to execute our initiatives, leave us well positioned to meet the challenges of the current economic environment and achieve our objectives for this year.

Same-store sales were up 1.2%. The impact of the calendar shift reduced first quarter sales by an estimated $32 million or by about 370 basis points. In the U.S. we delivered same-store sales of 1.2%, after an increase of 12.5% last year with the promotional shift having an estimated 440 basis point impact. In the U.K. we’re pleased to again report a positive comp and again it was 1.2%, and what remains a challenging environment. This reflected as expected, a significant improvement from the February performance, which we discussed in our last call. Income before income taxes was $128.5 million or an increase of 9.1%.

Now let’s look at the U.S. performance in a little bit more detail. U.S. total sales were $751.5 million, up $13.5 million, an increase of 1.8%. Kay same-store sales increased by 2.9%. During February which includes the important Valentine’s Day period, same-store sales were up 8.4% with April being adversely impacted by the calendar shift.

Jared comps were 0.2%. Jared also had a similar trading pattern with February comps up 8.1% and April adversely impacted by the calendar shift. Overall, U.S. same-store sales increased 1.2% in the first quarter.

As we moved into the second quarter, including the Mother’s Day trading period, we’ve seen strong double-digit comps. A very strong all round performance for this major gift giving period for our U.S. division.

Our operating income was a $137.7 million, up $11.5 million or 9.1%, reflecting the tight management of expenses in anticipation of this calendar shift. And the operating margin increased by 120 basis points to 18.3%, a record level for the first quarter.

Now let’s turn to Mother’s Day because as we know its all about Mom. We had a very strong Mother’s Day in the U.S. with May month-to-date sales of approximately 21% following a 16% increase last year. Adjusted for the Mother’s Day related timing shifts, same-store sales were up approximately 9% following a 14% increase last year. We are very pleased with this performance month-to-date encompassing this very important holiday period.

Now turning to the U.K. The total sales were $148.5 million, a constant exchange rate that were up 1.4%. Same-store sales were up 1.2% with H.Samuel leading the way. The same-store sales performance continued to be ahead of nonfood retailers in the U.K. as reported by the British Retail Consortium.

The growth was driven by new product initiatives, particularly in H.Samuel, the strong performance from store investments made last year and our success in competing in a promotional environment. There was an operating loss of $3 million, down $2.8 million which was inline with our plan. The performance was primarily due to a lower gross merchandise margin. We are focused in the U.K. on initiatives, such as testing new merchandise, staff training, and planning for Christmas. With the objective of driving costs in this key holiday season, while identifying further opportunities to control cost.

We expect sales in the U.K. to continue to outpace the broader retail market, that currently believe that operating income will be under pressure primarily due to the promotional environment. Just as a remainder, in the U.K. Mother’s Day was in March.

The drivers of our performance are our sustainable competitive strengths. In particular, broad customer acceptance of our merchandised offerings, our great customer experience and our investment in marketing. Brand is differentiated and exclusive merchandise continues to perform well and Neil Lane Bridal, Le Vian, Tolkowsky and Charmed Memories have all been particularly strong.

The customer experience remained central to our success and we remained focused on training and development of our store teams, including the best use of in-store sales enhancing technology that is currently being rolled out. Our marketing investment for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day again proved very effective with increased impressions helping to drive strong sales performances and building the value of the brand equity, both our store concepts and our merchandised collections. Also ecommerce performance strongly again with sales up $4.8 million to $22.1 million, an increase of 27.7%.

We continue to focus on our strategic imperatives to drive growth in fiscal 2013 and beyond. To manage the business appropriately including tight expense control, while continuing to implement initiatives that drives long-term shareholder value. The recruitment, training, development, motivation, and retention of our team members is key to sustaining our ability to deliver an outstanding retail experience for our customers.

The customer acceptance of our merchandising initiatives remained very positive and we’re always looking for opportunities to grow both new and existing brands and categories to delight both existing and new customers.

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