Troubles continue at the European operations of Claire's
This continues a trend well covered in recent months. Even as the rest of the company has performed well, European same-store sales fell compared with year-ago figures in both January and December. (We took a longer look at this story when November sales results were released.)
The overseas numbers haven't been much of a turnoff for investors, who've helped Claire's shares beat the S&P 500 handily over the last 12 months. Still, with the company counting on Europe to provide grounds for much of its future growth -- not to mention a significant portion of its present revenues -- this isn't a situation to overlook.
And management hasn't overlooked it. The president of Claire's U.K. operations left earlier this year, and today his position was filled by Roger Edson, who was the vice president of its Canadian division. He presided over a quadrupling in store count north of the U.S. border. Now, presumably, the ongoing project of "Americanizing" its European operations should intensify -- by making the stores' product mix look more like ours, as well as improving customer service. And both will surely cost money.
Claire's goal is a return to same-store sales growth in Europe by the end of fiscal 2005. Should the company achieve this while maintaining its impressive domestic results, it will truly be firing on all cylinders -- just in time for a celebration at next year's proms.
Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story. He can be reached via email.