Pre-tax profit $50.8m despite fragile US sales
Jewellery group Signet revealed sales rose 8.1 per cent to US$814.4 million (£414.1 million) at constant exchange rates, in the 13 weeks to May 5, with like-for-likes up 3.1 per cent, despite weak sales in the US. Pre-tax profit was $50.8 million (£25.8 million) in quarter one.

However, in its UK division - where its trades under the H Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis brands - sales were up by 1.7 per cent to US$182.1 million (£92.6 million) at constant exchange rates. Like-for-likes also increased 2.6 per cent, with H Samuel's up 1.9 per cent and Ernest Jones's up by 3.5 per cent. Signet operates from 578 stores across the UK.

Signet group chief executive Terry Burman said: 'In the first quarter, the US trading environment weakened and the UK market was a little stronger. Against this background, profit before tax of US$50.8 million demonstrates the underlying strength of the group.'

Seymour Pierce analyst Andrew Wade said: 'The result was apparently affected by US$5 million (£2.5 million) of US marketing, taken in quarter one this year, compared with quarter two last year. Within this, gross margins were lower in the US and flat in the UK, as expected. There is no mistaking the fact that this is a fairly cautious statement.'

Burman added: 'The US division experienced weak sales over the Mother's Day period at the start of the second quarter. Trading since then has seen like-for-like sales return to the underlying rate of growth achieved in the first quarter. The sales performance of the UK business has seen a further small improvement to that of the first 13 weeks.'