Signet UK like-for-likes dropped 1.4% in its year ending January 29 as tough trading continues in 2011.

Like-for-likes were down across all its UK brands with H Samuel falling by 1.6% and Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis dropping 1.1%.The retailer’s UK operation contributed 20.2% of group sales for the US-owned jeweller which saw pre-tax profits rise by 30.3% to $300.4m.

In its current financial year UK like-for-likes have plunged by 4.6%. The retailer said trading conditions remained challenging.

It said: “The UK economy is being impacted by pressure on discretionary spending due to the government’s austerity programme, which includes an increase in VAT and higher consumer inflation at a time of limited growth in personal disposable income.”

The retailer said it plans to close 22 UK stores this year and will open just two stores.

The jeweller said charm bracelets, fashion watches and bridal categories were performing well in the UK. Average selling prices rose by 9.2%, excluding the charm bracelet category, following the retailer’s move to raise prices to ease the pressure on gross merchandising margin. It said the price rise largely offset the poor exchange rate, increasing cost of gold and higher VAT.