Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

February 20, 2014

Signet Jewelers buying Zale for about $900M

NEW YORK (AP) — All the single ladies: Put your hands up.

The largest U.S. jewelry chain on Wednesday decided to put a ring on its much smaller rival, creating a $6 billion jewelry juggernaut with expansive reach in North America.

Signet Jewelers, owner of Jared The Galleria with its “He went to Jared” slogan and Kay Jeweler with its “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” ads, agreed to buy Zale for roughly $900 million.

Turns out, diamonds aren’t just a girl’s proverbial best friend; Investors seemed to like them on Wednesday, too. On news of the planned acquisition, Signet’s stock rose more than 18 percent, while shares of Zale soared more than 40 percent.

The deal underscores the harsh realities of the $32. 8 billion jewelry business since the Great Recession. Sales of necklaces, rings and other jewels got hammered during the economic downturn as shoppers pulled back on their discretionary purchases.

Now, business is slowly starting to come back during the economic recovery. But there are still a number of jewelry chains in the market, and sales are still far from their pre-recession peak of more than $36 billion in 2006.

“The deal is a rational response to the imbalance of supply and demand,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy in New Canaan, Conn. “There are too many stores chasing too few jewelry buyers.”

In fact, analysts say the abundance of stores is a scenario that has played out in malls across the country where some of Signet’s stores go head-to-head with Zale’s “Zales” branded stores. But they say Signet has fared better.

Signet has 1,400 Jared and Kay stores in the U.S. and 500 stores in the U.K. under the names H. Samuel and Ernest Jones.

Signet Jewelers Ltd., which is based in Bermuda, reported that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 5 percent during in November and December combined. By division, the sales metric at Kay, which has tried attracting customers by creating exclusive collections, rose 5.6 percent. Jared sales were up 5.6 percent during that period.

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