Signet Jewelers Ltd. likes what it’s getting out of its May 2014 acquisition of Zale Corp., and apparently investors do, too.
With eight months of Zale ownership behind it, the retailer behind such brands as Kay and Jared ended the year with a fourth-quarter earnings “beat” and revenues that fell just short of analysts’ consensus estimates, boosting its sales for the year 36.3 percent to $5.74 billion, with an expected decline in gross margin attributable to Zale’s lower margin operations one of the few drawbacks to come out of the deal.
Shares closed at $135, up 6 percent in New York Stock Exchange trading, and reached a 52-week high of $135.98 as afternoon trading began.
Mark Light, chief executive officer, told analysts on a Thursday morning conference call that the firm appears on track to recognize about 20 percent of the $150 million to $175 million in synergies expected from the deal by the end of the current fiscal year with another 40 percent to be realized next year.
Of the total amount, “roughly 20 percent will be achieved from expense reductions, 30 percent from repair services and brand cross-selling and 50 percent from supply chain and purchasing initiatives,” Light said.
In the three months ended Jan. 31, net income rose 30.1 percent to $228 million, or $2.84 a diluted share, from $175.2 million, or $2.18, in last year’s fourth quarter. Adjusted EPS hit $3.06 a share, 2 cents above the consensus estimate of analysts.
Revenues rose 45.5 percent to $2.28 billion from $1.56 billion and rose 4.2 percent on a same-store sales basis. Without Zale’s contribution, revenues were up 4.8 percent to $1.64 billion.
The Zale purchase also boosted Signet’s digital reach. E-commerce sales rose 89.4 percent in the quarter to $149.6 million. Excluding Zale’s portion of those sales, e-commerce would have risen 20 percent to $94.8 million.
“We believe more strongly now than ever that an omnichannel approach to jewelry retail is critical,” the ceo said. “We educated our customers, we communicated with them and merchandised to them through the Internet, not only to drive e-commerce growth but also to maximize in-store experiences. We strengthened our digital ecosystem experience by optimizing store brand Web sites for both desktop and mobile devices, by increasing merchandise assortments and by investing in social media.”
By business segment, same-store sales grew 3.7 percent at both the Sterling and Zale operations and 7.5 percent in the U.K.
The company continues to experiment with the cross-selling of exclusive brands across its nameplates.
“We were able to…literally rush into a test and get some Vera Wang [Love] products [previously sold only at Zale] into our Kay stores and get some Neil Lane products [previously at Kay] into our Zale and Peoples stores,” Light reported. “And it’s still very early. So early, up front, we feel good about some of the cross-selling, but we’ve got a lot more to do. We’re going to extend and expand our testing through the first quarter.”
For the full year, net income was up 3.6 percent of $438.1 million, or $4.75 a diluted share, while sales expanded 36.3 percent to $5.74 billion.