According to the Hurun Report, affluent Chinese are spending less, as their overall spending has declined by 15% in 2013. Also, this is the third time that spending by wealthy customers has fallen in China. This has resulted in hardships for high-end retailers in the region, especially the ones that were expanding their presences in the emerging markets.
Retail jewelers such as Signet Jewelers (NYSE: SIG ) will most likely see the largest effects from this trend. However, the specialty retailer has managed to find its way out of this situation and post great fourth-quarter results.
Into the details
Driven by an increase in the number of transactions, Signet's revenue increased 3.4% over last year to $1.56 billion. Signet's same-store sales also grew by 4.3%, which exceeded its growth of 3.5% last year. The company's efforts in the area of bridal collections have paid off. The demand for fashionable diamond jewelry and bridal jewelry grew, and this was especially true in the UK where Signet's comparable sales jumped 5.7%. In fact, Signet's revenue from the U.S. also grew by 3.5% to $1.3 billion with help from a comparable-store sales increase of 4%.
Not only did the stores do well, Signet's online business also did well. Signet's revenue from e-commerce operations jumped 23.6% over the prior-year result.
However, Signet faces stiff competition from Blue Nile (NASDAQ: NILE ) , an online jeweler. Blue Nile focuses on providing fine jewelry made by popular designers. It has been resonating well with the customers, as indicated by the results from its recent quarter. Its top line grew 7.2% over its last-year result to $146 million as its sales from the U.S. and the international market increased.
Moreover, the online jeweler plans to attract more customers by launching new designer wear. For instance, it launched the Blue Nile Designer Collective last month, which includes an exclusive collection from renowned designers such as Anne Sportun and Denise James. Hence, these efforts should give Blue Nile a competitive edge over its peers.
Initiatives in marketing
One of the key drivers of Signet Jewelers' top line growth has been its product-marketing efforts. With an increased advertising budget, it developed advertising campaigns and created new TV ads to influence customers.
On the other hand, rival Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) does not spend much on promotions. However, the retailer posted growth on both the top line and the bottom line in its recent quarter. Tiffany's revenue surged 5% over last year and its earnings advanced to $1.47 per share from to $1.40 per share in the year-ago quarter. However, its same-store sales jumped 2%, an increase quite lower than that of Signet. By increasing its promotions in China, Tiffany plans to attract Chinese tourists which should help its revenue grow. Hence, it will be interesting to see how Tiffany's initiatives will affect Signet Jewelers' sales in the region.
Measures to look forward to...
Signet too is making a number of moves to outpace its industry peers. Firstly, the company's strong marketing plan encompasses all the regions it caters to as it is not limited to China.
Secondly, it has been undertaking measures to enhance its digital ecosystem in order to lure more customers. For instance, it has developed a website that provides online education on jewelry, jewelrywise.com, which provides information to customers about jewelry in general. Also, it has launched mobile apps to make shopping easier for customers. Customers can use these mobile apps to make credit purchases. Signet also uses social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to market its products.
In addition to strengthening its partnerships with watch brands and developing ongoing fashion jewelry programs, the specialty retailer plans to expand through the $1.4 billion acquisition of Zale Corporation, which will increase its its geographical footprint and diversify its portfolio of offerings. As fellow writer Dan Moskowitz points out, this deal could prove to be quite beneficial for the acquirer.
Although a decrease in spending in China has been a point of concern, Signet Jewelers has made significant efforts to overcome obstacles and boost its performance. It has been quite active on the advertising front and it is taking initiatives to strengthen its digital ecosystem. Additionally, the acquisition of Zale Corporation will help Signet grow larger than ever. Despite stiff competition, the Bermuda-based retailer has been performing well, and looks increasingly attractive.
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