Jewellery giant Signet intends to slash costs and cut debt to cope with harsh trading conditions.

The retailer, which does two thirds of its business in the US and owns chains such as H Samuel and Kay Jewelers, posted profits before various charges in line with expectations at $200.9m (£137.3m).

At the reported level, the retailer made a loss before income taxes of $326.5m (£223.1m).

Group total sales fell 5.7 per cent at constant exchange rates to $3.34bn (£2.28bn) and like-for-likes plunged 8.2 per cent.

In its new financial year Signet will stage a $100m (£68.3m) cost reduction programme in the US and cut net debt by about $200m (£136.7m).

Signet chief executive Terry Burman said: “As sector rationalisation continues at an accelerated pace, proven management, a strong balance sheet and sustainable competitive advantages are important considerations in relationships with staff, suppliers and landlords.

“As we enter fiscal 2010, our prime objective is to strengthen the group’s industry leading position so as to be able to benefit from reduced capacity within the speciality jewellery sector and be well positioned for the eventual consumer recovery.”

The retailer said it had made an encouraging start to the new financial year. US same-store sales fell 2.7 per cent in the first seven weeks, and in the UK they were down 3.8 per cent.