Signet speeds up design change after sales rise

Jewellery retailer Signet will accelerate the conversion of Ernest Jones and H Samuel stores to its millennium design over the next 12 months.

The retailer has 52 stores sporting the new look - which gives shoppers a better view of the shop from outside - across both fascias.

Signet expects to convert a further 80 outlets and open approximately 10 shops incorporating the design. 'The majority of the conversions this year will be H Samuel stores, but going forward the millennium format will be introduced to the vast majority of the stores (of both chains),' said a spokesman.

Signet has 407 H Samuel shops and 197 Ernest Jones stores in the UK.

Both have benefited from Signet's focus on selling diamond jewellery in the past few years, in particular Ernest Jones, which has increased sales per store from£622,000 in 1998 to£1 million in 2003.

Deutsche Bank estimates the millennium design has produced a sales uplift of between 10 and 20 per cent in stores where it has been introduced. Analysts said the increase is double that of the 6 to 7 per cent reaped from refurbishments between 1995 and 1998.

However, the spokesman would not confirm the figures. He said: 'It's sufficient to meet our investment criteria.'

Two weeks ago, Signet announced fourth-quarter group like-for-like sales up 7 per cent across the group, which includes 1,103 US stores.