Signet loses over pounds 70m on sale of luggage retail chain

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN HINCHLIFFE, former chairman of the Sheffield engineer James Wilkes, has bought the Salisburys chain of shops from Signet.

Mr Hinchliffe paid pounds 3.2m for the 174 outlets, which sell luggage and handbags. In 1988, Signet - then called Ratners - paid pounds 77m for the business.

Salisburys has lost money in each of the past three years. In the 12 months to last January the company made pre-tax losses of pounds 5.3m on sales of pounds 54m.

Signet is Britain's largest jeweller, trading under the names of H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

James McAdam, Signet chairman, said the primary reason for disposing of Salisburys was to eliminate its trading losses from the restructured group.

He added that the sale was the last main act of reorganisation at Signet, which has debts of pounds 360m and assets of pounds 250m. It has closed 300 jewellery shops in the past two years.

Mr Hinchliffe said yesterday that he wanted to expand Salisburys. Its product ranges have been revamped and the stores are to be refitted.

He resigned from James Wilkes in February 1992 during a hostile takeover attempt by Petrocon. He received pounds 533,000 compensation for loss of office.

His successor, Arthur Watt, said at the time that he wanted to depart from an 'extravagant and flamboyant management style' favoured by Mr Hinchliffe. James Wilkes's head office was relocated from Beauchief Hall, a country house near Sheffield, and a helicopter-owning subsidiary was sold.

Mr Hinchliffe said yesterday that Salisburys was his first venture since leaving Wilkes. He owns the whole of the new private company, called Salisburys Stores.

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