There's more in store at Sterling Jewelers than sterling silver. The jewelry firm sells gold, silver, diamond, and gemstone jewelry, watches, and gifts from more than 1,470 stores in all 50 US states. Sterling Jewelers operates Kay Jewelers, which has about 1,055 stores in shopping centers and malls nationwide, as well as the off-mall format Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, and some 195 regional jewelry stores under other names (Belden, JB Robinson, Marks & Morgan). Some 200 Jared stores sell diamond jewelry and loose diamonds, as well as luxury watches such as Rolex, Tag Heuer, and Raymond Weil. Sterling Jewelers is the US subsidiary of Bermuda-based Signet Jewelers, the world's largest jewelry retailer.
Sterling Jewelers is the US division of Bermuda-based Signet, with more than 1,470 stores in all 50 states. Kay is ubiquitous with stores in every state, while Jared has stores in about 40 of them. The jewelry company's 213 regional brand stores operate across 35 states.
Sterling Jewelers accounts for more than 80% of its parent company's $4.2 billion in sales. Sterling reported $3.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2014 (ended January), a 7% increase versus the prior year. Same-store sales increased by 5%, compared to an increase of 4% in the previous annual comparison. E-commerce sales rose 27% year over year to $129 million.
Kay, which accounted for nearly $2.2 billion of Sterling's total, saw its sales rise 9% year over year, while Jared's sales rose 6%, and the company's regional brands posted a 1% gain.
The increase in sales in fiscal 2014 was driven by broad based strength across most merchandise categories at both Kay and Jared, as well as the Ultra acquisition, which added $91.3 million in sales in fiscal 2014. The number of merchandise transactions increased at Kay and Jared. Average transaction values rose at Kay due to changes in the sales mix, but were down slightly at Jared due to changes in the sales mix.
Sterling Jewelers has replaced its historical rapid-growth strategy with a revised plan to position itself as the strongest operator in the US middle market and capitalize on the decrease in competition (many jewelry chains, including Fortunoff, Whitehall Jewelers, and Friedman's have gone out of business in recent years) as the economy regains steam. Indeed, Kay Jewelers overtook its ailing archrival Zale in sales nearly a decade ago. Now, in a move that would greatly increase its US presence, and eliminate one of Sterling Jeweler's primary competitors, Signet in early 2014 agreed to buy Zale for $1.4 billion.
Signet is bullish on both the Kay and Jared chains and sees long-term potential to add more than 400 Kay stores and 300-plus Jared locations. Both Kay and Jared appear to have recovered from the twin effects of rising gold prices and the recent deep recession, which led to the closing of about 15 Kay stores. Hardest hit by economic hard times were the company's regional chains, which have closed more than 100 stores over the past three years. Regional chains account for less than 10% of the company's total sales.
The company's Jared chain is the exception, adding more than 50 locations since 2007. Jared stores are nearly four times the size of the company's mall stores and the average retail price of the diamond merchandise it sells is more than twice that of a Kay store. The number of Jared stores stocking luxury watch brands, including Baume & Mercier and Cartier, has been increased. Jared's target customer is older and more affluent than a Kay customer.
In fall 2012 Sterling's UK parent acquired Ultra Stores, adding to its US holdings. The majority of the 110 Ultra stores acquired were converted to Key stores in fiscal 2014. Overall, the company increased its net selling space in the US by 5% in fiscal 2014.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In November 2013, parent Signet acquired a diamond polishing factory in Botswana.
Parent Signet acquired Ultra Stores, Inc. in October 2012 from the Chicago investment firm Crystal Capital, adding to its holdings in the US. Ulta operates about 110 outlet stores in 35 states, as well as 33 Ultra licensed department stores.