Aurum Holdings has reported sales surging by 21.2% to £685.2 million for the financial year ended April 30, 2018.
The group overtook Signet Jewelers to become the UK’s largest multi-store operator last year, and pushed into the North American market with the acquisition of Mayors in Florida and Atlanta in October, followed by the take-over of Rolex and multi-brand showrooms in Las Vegas.
The American business has been key to the group’s growth in the past 12 months, with pro forma net sales rising 9.9% across The Pond while UK sales rose by 5.2%.
Worldwide earnings (EBITDA) rose 23.2% to £68 million.
Aurum Holdings, which is owned by US-based Apollo Global Management, is rumored to be in preparation for a public listing early next year. It recently announced it will change its name to Watches of Switzerland Group on September 1, a re-branding reported to make it more investor-friendly ahead of an IPO.
Speaking to WatchPro today, the group’s chief executive, Brian Duffy, said that there was nothing formal to report on the subject of a sale or public listing, beyond confirming that the business routinely prepares for all outcomes.
A list of operational highlights accompanying the 2017-18financial results suggests that growth opportunities for growth in North America are as important as the larger UK operation to Aurum.
The report points to the successful integration of Mayors, a leading watch and jewelry retailer in Florida and taking over management of a Rolex showroom and multi-brand watch boutique in the Wynn Resort, Las Vegas, in December last year.
The group is investing heavily in refurbishing and relocating some of the Mayors network of around 20 stores, and is on track to open three Watches of Switzerland shops in New York as well as additional luxury watch boutiques in Las Vegas.
It also has a programme of improvements to merchandising, marketing and CRM rolling out in North America in partnership with the key watch and jewellery brands it represents.
“Initiatives are in place to implement Aurum’s best practices in merchandising, marketing and CRM with strong support from all key brands,” Mr Duffy says.
Aurum Holdings has grown from a mid-sized British jewellery multiple in 2011 with turnover of under £300 million to the £685 million multinational group it is today.
In the UK it owns Goldsmiths, Mappin & Webb, Watchshop, The Watch Lab and Watches of Switzerland. Only Watchshop and The Watch Lab were acquired, with the remaining growth coming from new store openings and organic expansion of existing retail businesses and a marked shift upmarket.
Luxury watches now account for 73% of group sales, according to today’s financial report.
“It has been another year of continued progress for the Group, with good organic growth being further bolstered by key strategic developments in the US with the acquisitions of Mayors and Wynn. Luxury watches are the driver of growth in both the UK and US,” says MrDuffy.
Aurum has strategically invested in the fastest growing areas of the jewellery and watch market. Since 2016, the UK has been red hot as the Brexit vote weakened the value of sterling and made luxury goods like watches more than 25% cheaper than comparable Western markets. That contributed to sales rising by almost 25% in the 2016-17 financial year.
Watch brands have adjusted UK prices over the past two years, which has reduced the price differentials and taken some heat out of the market.
The US market has grown faster than the UK this year, with exports of Swiss watches rising by almost 10% in the first five months of 2018. Exports to the UK have dipped by 10.8% in the same period.
“This solid performance was supported by the positive market trends in the UK, and particularly, in the US. The Swiss Watch Federation report strong growth in the global market for luxury watches. Our strong results and the growth we have seen in our total market share in this category during the year, coupled with the continued momentum in current trading post the year end, is testament to the strength of our retail brands, our store environments and our people, and demonstrates that we are well placed for future growth,” Mr Duffy concludes.