Goldsmiths twice as good

BY NIGEL COPE

Goldsmiths, the jewellery retailer interested in buying parts of the ailing Signet chain, shrugged off dull trading in the trinkets sector last year with a sparkling set of results. Profits more than doubled to £3.2m in the year to January on sales up 11 per cent at £53.1m. The dividend was trebled to 3p.

Goldsmiths specialises in upmarket jewellery and has a clutch of distribution deals with premier brands such as Cartier, Gucci, Rolex and Tag Heuer. Like-for-like sales in its 117 shops rose 7.5 per cent over the year, with watch sales stronger in the mid-price ranges than the chunky gold Rolexes. In January, Goldsmiths was awarded the contract to run Harrods' watch concession, which should add £3.5m to next year's sales.

The company, founded in 1778, is expanding fast under its chairman, Jurek Piasecki. It is opening two more branches next month and hopes to add a further six in the year. Mr Piasecki has said he is interested in acquiring parts of the debt-laden Signet business given the right circumstances. He has venture capital backing for a £250m deal that could swallow Signet's Ernest Jones chain.

"Yes, we are interested but it's up to them if they want to sell. We've done some feasibility studies," he said.

Goldsmiths has 3 per cent of the UK jewellery market compared to Signet's 20 per cent, but Mr Piasecki is confident his systems and head office could cope with the quantum leap such an acquisition would entail.

Goldsmiths' performance is impressive given that the sector has had little help from the economic upturn. Goldsmiths has been taking market share from its competitors, helped by new systems such as electronic point of sale and modernisation.

The shares finished 4p higher at 124p.

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