Zale is multifaceted. One of North America's largest specialty jewelry retailers, Zale sells diamond, colored stone, and gold jewelry (diamond fashion rings, semi-precious stones, earrings, gold chains); watches; and gifts at some 1,680 stores and kiosks, mostly in malls, throughout the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The firm, which targets the value-oriented customer, has a trio of large chains aimed at different jewelry markets: Gordon's Jewelers, flagship chain Zales Jewelers, and Piercing Pagoda. Zale also operates about 125 outlet stores, runs more than 200 stores in Canada under the Peoples Jewellers and Mappins names, sells online, and offers jewelry insurance. Zale was acquired by Signet Jewelers in mid-2014.
Change in Company Type
Bermuda-based Signet Jewelers, the operator of the Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry chains in the US, in May 2014 acquired Zale for $21 per share, a significant premium to its stock price. The $1.4 billion deal followed a strong holiday season (and year) for US jewelry sales and is a further step in the consolidation of the jewelry industry. Signet retained Zale's CEO Theo Killion to run the company.
The US is Zale's primary market, accounting for more than 75% of its sales. North of the US-Canada border, Zale operates more than 200 stores in nine provinces under the Peoples the Diamond Store and Mappins Jewellers names. The Canadian operation contributed 22% of Zale's total revenue in fiscal 2013 (ended July).
In addition to its retail jewelry stores across North America, Zale offers insurance and reinsurance services through several subsidiaries. Insurance revenues amounted to $10.9 million in fiscal 2013 (ended July).
Sales and Marketing
Zale spent $83.6 million on advertising in fiscal 2013, compared with $94.5 million on advertising in fiscal 2012, and $76.5 million in 2011. The company's websites are making a growing contribution to sales, from both purchases made online and delivered or, alternatively, picked up at one of its retail stores. Indeed, in 2012 28% of the company's online customers picked up merchandise from a store.
Zale posted its third consecutive year of rising sales in fiscal 2013 (ended July), suggesting that its turnaround (after a three-year period during which revenue plummeted nearly 25%) may stick. Indeed, sales increased 1% in fiscal 2013, after rising 7% and 8% in fiscal 2012 and 2011, respectively. The modest increase in 2013 sales was driven by an increase in same-store sales as a result of price increases and the amount of merchandise sold in its bridal product line. The closure of 84 stores in 2012 partially offset the gain. Nevertheless, the nearly $1.9 billion in sales Zale rang up in 2013 is well off its prerecession high of $2.4 billion.
After forecasting a return to profitability in 2013, Zale delivered. Indeed, the jewelry company posted a profit of $10 million in fiscal 2013, its first in five years. The company lost more than $27 million in 2012 and about $112 million in 2011.
The jeweler's third positive sales comparison came after Zale in 2010 launched a multiyear strategy designed to stabilize the business and return it to profitability. Elements of the plan include rebuilding the core diamond assortment. To that end, in fiscal 2011 the retailer brought back its "The Diamond Store" campaign for Zales and Peoples Jewellers and entered into exclusive partnerships with bridal maven Vera Want and Jessica Simpson to develop exclusive wedding and diamond fashion collections. The back-to-back sales increases suggest Zale may be gaining some traction with customers. The company is working to expand its omnichannel business through mobile devices and social media.
In response to its declining fortunes, Zale has closed more than 400 stores in recent years and sold its 70-store Bailey Banks & Biddle Fine Jewelry division. After shuttering about 95 stores in fiscal 2013, the chain plans to close another 50 to 55 locations, primarily Gordon's and Mappins stores. Zale repositioned its remaining jewelry chains to focus on moderately priced merchandise. Kiosk jewelry, operating under the Piercing Pagoda, Plumb Gold, and Silver and Gold Connection banners, offers an extensive collection of entry-level priced merchandise (as well as on-site ear-piercing). Sales of kiosk jewelry accounted for 13% of the company's total sales in fiscal 2013 (up from 11% in 2007).
In a bid to raise cash to fund its turnaround, Zale hired the investment bank Peter J. Solomon to help it find new investors. Private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital purchased about 20% of struggling Zale in May 2010 and lent the firm $150 million, for which it received two seats on the company's board of directors.