By  on September 29, 2010

A nearly two-year search for a successor to Terry Burman as chief executive officer of Signet Jewelers Ltd. came to a successful conclusion Wednesday with the appointment of Michael Barnes, currently president and chief operating officer of watch and accessories marketer Fossil Inc.

Barnes, who joined Fossil in 1985, will move to Bermuda-based Signet on Dec. 1 as ceo designate and will be based in Akron, Ohio. After 10 years at Signet’s helm, Burman will retire on Jan. 29, as planned, and will be succeeded by Barnes the following day.

According to Signet, the search for Burman’s successor began in November 2008.

“Mike is a seasoned and accomplished manager who, with his strategic and attentive outlook to operational details, brings valuable experience to Signet,” said Sir Malcolm Williamson, chairman of Signet, calling Barnes “an able successor” to Burman and his “strong legacy.”

Barnes said, “Signet has established itself as a leading retailer in both the U.S. and the U.K., with significant competitive advantages. It has a great culture of excellence in execution and continuous improvement, and has had considerable success in developing differentiated merchandise ranges.”

A Fossil spokeswoman told WWD on Wednesday that the firm would not seek a new chief operating officer, but would assign Barnes’ responsibilities to its existing executive team.

At Signet, sales declined 1.6 percent to $3.29 billion for the year ended Jan. 31, versus $3.34 billion a year earlier. The firm’s net income reached $164.1 million, or $1.91 a share, versus a loss of $393.7 million, or $4.62 a share in fiscal 2008. Signet operates jewelry chains Kay and Jared in the U.S. and H. Samuel in the U.K., among other brands.

In 2000, Burman’s first year as ceo of Signet, sales grew 28.7 percent to $1.48 billion. During his tenure, the company’s store base has expanded to about 1,900 stores from about 1,600.

In the year ended Jan. 2, Fossil’s revenue slipped 2.2 percent to $1.55 billion from $1.58 billion a year earlier. The firm’s net income increased 0.8 percent to $139.2 million, or $2.07 a share, compared with income of $138.1 million, or $2.02, last year.

Following the announcement Wednesday, shares of Signet advanced 62 cents, or 2 percent, to $32.22 in New York Stock Exchange trading. The S&P Retail Index was off 0.5 percent for the day, to 459.64.

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