Maybe it stems from collecting rocks as a kid. Or, possibly, it could have been an early excursion to Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds State Park -- to my knowledge, the only diamond mine in existence open to the public. One lucky visitor years ago walked out with a 40-carat beauty. I'm not greedy: A small 5-carat rock would have been worth the trip for me. Sadly, my career as a prospector was short-lived. Whatever the reason, though, I actually enjoy jewelry shopping. There, I've said it. It feels good to get that off my chest.
Shh. Don't tell my wife, though. I like to let her think that the agony I endure while shopping at Zale
Apparently, though, those results were skewed by weak performance at the company's flagship chain. Every other brand -- from the economical Piercing Pagoda to the more upscale Bailey Banks & Biddle -- reported a gain in same-store sales. The company's consolidated second-quarter numbers were dragged lower by weak results at Zale stores during the holidays. Comps during the November-December time frame slipped 0.7% lower. Meanwhile, Tiffany
Tiffany also received some help from its direct marketing channel, where combined Internet and catalog sales climbed 13% (on top of a 27% increase the year before). Consumers have shown little apprehension over purchasing big-ticket jewelry items online, as Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection Blue Nile's
Regardless of the same-store sales picture, earnings still ticked up 4.4% to $1.91 -- ahead of estimates and at the high end of the company's recently lowered guidance. At the year's halfway point, Zale's net income of $88 million is unchanged from a year ago, but a recent $50 million stock buyback has boosted results on a per-share basis. With the addition of about 100 new stores since this time last year, revenues have risen by a modest 2.2% to $1.39 billion.
Today's results were respectable, but far from alluring. The future is always more important that the past, though, and indications of strong Valentine's Day sales have helped investors rekindle their love for the stock (the shares were up 13% this morning). If Zale can turn around operations at its namesake units (which represent about 50% of total revenues), the romance might continue. Either way, at only 14 times this year's earnings, it won't take a 0% financing offer to splurge on the shares.
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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.