Sales fall at UK stores
A solid performance from the US division of jewellery group Signet has offset a substantial decline in sales at the group's UK stores H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

The group reported a like-for-like sales increase of 1.1 per cent for the nine weeks to December 31. Although sales at Signet's US division experienced a robust like-for-like sales increase of 5.5 per cent over the period, its sales in the UK fell 9.3 per cent.

Signet group chief executive Terry Burman blamed difficult trading conditions in the UK for the drop in sales but said he expected end-of-year pre-tax profit to be in line with expectations at between£193 million and£199 million.

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said: 'Looking further ahead, it remains unclear as to how the consumer will respond on both sides of the Atlantic, though in our opinion we believe the UK will continue to underperform.'

The US division represents 73 per cent of the group's annual sales. Signet, which trades as Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry in the US, said Kay had made further progress, enhancing its position as the number one speciality retail jewellery brand in that region. It said Jared continued to perform well.

Signet also announced that Mark Light has been appointed chief executive of the group's US division and to the main board of Signet as an executive director.

Burman, who was also chief executive of the US Division, will remain executive chairman of that business.

Light joined the group in 1978 and has been president and chief operating officer of the US business since 2002.