Signet reports first profit for seven years

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Signet, the H Samuel and Ernest Jones jewellery group, reported its first interim profit for seven years yesterday, buoyed by a strong performance in the US, writes Nigel Cope.

In America, Signet is the second-largest jewellery group after Zales and profits there rose 16 per cent, boosted by a better product range and lower bad debt charges.

In the UK, performance was steady with profits flat but like-for-like sales up 3.3 per cent. James McAdam, chairman, said consumer confidence was strong in Britain but Signet had not seen a wave of spending prompted by the building society windfalls.

"I think that money is being spent on other things such as holidays and cars," he said.

Signet reported a pre-tax profit of pounds 1.9m for the six months to 2 August. This compares with a pounds 6m loss last time. The company said the group was heavily reliant on the Christmas trading period but said progress in the first half had been encouraging.

Signet is continuing its modernisation of the H Samuel chain. So far 51 of the shops have been updated and a further 119 will be refurbished before the Christmas season.

Like-for-like sales in the modernised stores increased by 6.9 per cent in the period compared with an increase of just 0.8 per cent in the older outlets.