NEW YORK (AP) — Signet Jewelers Ltd., considered the world's largest retailer of diamond jewelry, still shines in a sector where stubbornly high inflation has tempered shoppers' overall willingness to spend on baubles.
Like many jewelry chains, Signet has seen some shoppers, particularly in the lower-income bracket, pull back. But the chain, which operates 2,800 stores under such banners as Kay Jewelers, Zales and Peoples, reported in March fourth-quarter earnings results that beat analysts' expectations, and it offered a solid annual profit forecast. It's also focusing on higher-income consumers as the economy weakens.
In April, the Bermuda-based company said its goal is to reach as much as $10 billion in annual sales within the next five years, up from $7.8 billion in the latest year ended Jan. 28 That growth should be fueled by a continued rebound in U.S. engagements and demand for pricier jewelry. Shares of Signet are up 2% so far this year.
Signet's Group President and Chief Consumer Officer Jamie Singleton recently spoke with The Associated Press about how the pandemic shaped buying habits; moves to diverse its ranks and its supply chain network. Signet rocked the diamond industry in March 2022 when it said it will no longer buy diamonds from Russia after the country invaded Ukraine. Singleton also discussed one of the hottest fashion trends — men embracing jewelry. Her responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Q. What's your customers' approach to buying jewelry for their loved ones?
A. Our proprietary research is showing that considered purchases — sentimental purchases— over $1,000 are outperforming all of the other categories that we have. Our customers are still wanting bigger diamonds, better quality, higher carat gold. Coming out of the pandemic... people have a tighter circle of meaningful friends and loved ones in their life, and they’re still showing grand gestures of love and appreciation and sentimentality in their life. It's not limited to men gifting to women. There's a range of women gifting beautiful jewelry to men in their lives.
Q. How has Signet increased diversity among executives and in the boardroom?
A. We need a team of women and people of color. We need a team of young parents who need flexibility. I think the work we have done there is among the work we are most proud of. Forty-two percent of our board of directors are women. Two of the 12 are Black. And 42% of those holding the title of VP and above are women. We need to relate to one another's lives.
Q. What happened when Russia invaded Ukraine?
A. We really consider ourselves to be customers advocates, and we have an incredibly strong supply chain. When the war started, we were the first to make sure that we were not bringing diamonds that were mined in Russia into our products. We worked closely with our vendors to be able to control prices and be able to bring great value to our customers.
Q. How do you vet your suppliers?
A. We're founding members of the Responsible Joint Council, founded in 2005. And we are active member of the World Diamond Council. We put a lot of police work in our supply chain. Last year was the first year of our 10 year journey towards achieving our corporate sustainability goals with a focus on environmental, social and governance. (These are) 44 goals aligned with the U.N.
Q. Last year was the year of the wedding. What about this year?
A. The year of the anniversary. A lot of people celebrate their first anniversary this year. But we are beginning to see some of the normalization. And as people set priorities, jewelry is remaining a high priority on people’s lists.
Q. Are you preparing for a recession?
A. We do prepare for all kinds of scenarios. We have people at the high end and people at the more moderate end. And last year, what we experienced with our more value-based shoppers is that the impact of a recession felt very, very real to them. We really worked hard to value engineer products and give them more for their money. We also worked on giving them easier options to finance.
Q. What's one big trend in jewelry right now?
A.. We're in a real fashion cycle in men. The younger generation of men have their ears pierced, and they’re wearing stacks and layered jewelry. These are men with a point of view on fashion and in the way that they want to look. Men's fashion is trending hard, and I don't see it stopping or slowing down.
Q. What's selling well ahead of Mother's Day?
A. Across all banners, we continue to see demand for both mined and lab-created diamonds across engagement and fashion jewelry. Fancy shapes over 1 carat including marquise and emerald are hot trends in engagement rings, and fashion is all about bold, classic looks in solitaire earrings, and line bracelets and necks. Customers are also really focusing on the classics and their jewelry box essentials.
Q. Are Signet employees back at the office?
A. We are hybrid. We have a workforce that is in and out of the office to some degree by job function. And then we have some days where we all, as a company, come into the office and have time together in the office as a team and will continue to do that. But we do believe that there’s value in face-to-face interactions.
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