Jewellery war hots up
Signet is going head on against Gerald Ratner with the launch of an Ernest Jones transactional web site.

The retailer, which is owned by Signet, has launched, selling more than 2,000 lines of jewellery watches and gifts will compete with Ratner's geraldonline business.

Ratner, who is understood to still be seeking backing for a£200 million bid for Signet, said he wants to bring H Samuel, a Signet-owned company, out of the doldrums. Two weeks ago, H Samuel revealed a 1.6 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the six months to July 29.

The chain's weak performance was offset by Ernest Jones' 1.8 per cent increase in like-for-like sales over the period. Signet UK jewellery chief executive Rob Anderson said that the new web site will 'further reinforces Ernest Jones' capabilities as the diamond and watch specialist.'

Customers using the web site can choose between collecting their merchandise from one of 207 Ernest Jones stores nationwide and having it delivered by first class or special delivery to any UK address.

Customer telephone support for the web site is provided by a team in the Group's existing Birmingham call centre facility.

This transactional capability is fully integrated into Ernest Jones' store operations, merchandising systems and marketing and the group said the launch has been supported by a communication programme involving all 207 store managers in briefing meetings held around the country.