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We also draw your attention to this slide. I will now hand over to Mike.Mike Barnes Thank you Tim and good morning everyone. We are very pleased with the record results in our third quarter, which reflects the ongoing success of our business driven by our competitive strengths. For the quarter total Signet same-store sales were up 10.6% led by the US with a 13.9% comp store sales increase, while the UK comp was slightly down at 0.5%. So the comp growth momentum seen in the first two quarters was continued into the third quarter. Some other key highlights include operating margin of 6%, an increase of 310 basis points from the prior year. Income before taxes at $42.1 million, up $30.1 million from $12 million. Diluted earnings per share were $0.30, that’s up $0.23, a more than three fold increase over the prior year comparable period. Also I would like to note, reflecting the continued confidence we have in the strength of our business model, our ability to invest in growth initiatives and our commitment to build value for long term share holders, the Board has authorized a $300 million share repurchase program effective from January 16, 2012 for the 24 months following through January 15, 2014. It is also intended that the Board will announce the details of the fourth quarter dividend when we release our holiday trading statement, which is currently scheduled for January 10. Now lets look at the results in a little more detail and we’ll start with the US division. Total US sales were $563 million, up $66 million, an increase of 13.3%. Kay had another outstanding quarter and increased same-store sales by 13%, that’s on top of 8.6% growth achieved in the third quarter of fiscal 2011. Average selling prices, excluding the charm bracelet category rose by 8.7%, with customers trading up due to merchandizing initiatives, as well as the higher prices due to commodity costs.
Jared again performed extremely well with comps up 18.3%, following a 14.3% increase last year. That was an outstanding two-year comp number. There was a substantial increase in Jared non-de-average (ph) selling price reflecting both mix and price increases. In addition, Jared average unit selling price was favorably impacted by approximately $76, as a result of a one-time launch promotion, which had an 8.3% impact on same store sales at Jared.Overall, US same store sales increased by 13.8%, compared to an increase of 9.7% last year. Net operating income was $56.4 million, up $30.7 million, which was a 119.5% increase and finally, the US division’s operating margin increased by 510 basis points to 10%. You know, at the continued core of our success is the in-store experience. We’ve remained very focused on training all our team members ahead of the holiday season, so that we can continue to give our guest best in class service. We’ve been particularly focused on the bridal category to support some of our merchandise initiatives such as Neil Lane Bridal and the Tolkowsky diamond, along with our longer-term bridal brands. We drew upon much of our knowledge we gained over the past year, in which we had a major research project that was focused on bridal. We’ve also been introducing customer assisted selling systems into selected Kay stores. This is a great example of our ability to build on the experience we’ve gained from operating set systems in Jared for a number of years now. Leo continues to remain our leading bridal brand and is now complemented by a number of other exclusive brands. In particular, as I mentioned the Neil Lane brand and Tolkowsky diamond, both of which we’ve been rolling out over the last 15 months. Neil Lane is now in all of our stores in the U.S. and the Tolkowsky diamond is in over 600 Kay stores. We continue to be very pleased with their performance and these brands are helping to contribute to the growth in average selling prices. The strength of these exclusive brands may be resulting in a shift away from more generic loose diamond sales. Overall, the bridal sector is a major contributor to our performance and is showing good growth. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com