H. Samuel and Ernest Jones, this country’s biggest volume jewellery and watch multiples, have endured falling sales for the past two years. The group’s 477 UK stores saw same sales fall by 6% in the financial year ended March 2018 and a further 5.2% for the same period ending March this year.
Results from F.Hinds, which has 115 stores in the UK, should be seen in this context. The company has faced the same headwinds and targets the same middle England customers but its sales nudged up by 0.4% to £62.3 million in the year to March 2018, according to accounts published at Companies House this week.
Turnover has been remarkably consistent over recent years, fluctuating between £64 million and £62 million since 2011.
However, operating profits at F.Hinds were down by over 46% to £1.7 million.
F.Hinds disproves the rule that jewellers need to move upmarket to maintain sales. Its portfolio of branded jewellery and watches has been tweaked, but not fundamentally changed, over the past five years. Its bread and butter watch brands remain sub-£500 priced collections from the likes of Citizen, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Seiko and Casio.
In a directors’ report accompanying the latest accounts, the company says customers are increasingly attracted to branded goods, and it has increased its offer in this area, but “non-branded goods, if sold at the right price, continue to perform well”.
There were no new shops opened by F.Hinds in the 2018 financial year, which the company says is in part due to the rising costs of quality locations on the high street and shopping centres. “Business rates based on historical high rents continue to be detrimental to many town centres and are a factor in why no new shops opened in this year,” the accounts state.
Rising wages, apprentice levies and auto-enrollment pensions also contributed to rising costs, the company says.