August 5, 2004
Zale Comp Store Sales Increase 2.1%; Whitehall Down 0.6%
Zale Corp., North America's largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry, reports a comparable store sales increase of 2.1% for the fourth quarter ended July 31. Total revenues for the period were $456 million compared to last year's total revenues of $442 million, an increase of 3.2%. Whitehall Jewellers reports a comparable store sales decrease of 0.6% for its second quarter ended July 31. Sales were $72.3 million compared to $72.7 million for the second quarter last year.
For Zale's fiscal year, total revenues increased 4.2% to $2.304 billion, compared to $2.212 billion for the prior fiscal year. Comp-store sales increased 3.9% for the year. "These sales results met our expectations for the fourth quarter and have us well positioned as we enter our new fiscal year," says Mary L. Forté, president and CEO. "During the course of the year, we continued to fine-tune our merchandise assortments, strengthened our clientele development efforts and made operational adjustments to improve our in-stock positions, all of which had a positive impact on our sales performance."
Separately, Zale announced its board of directors approved a stock repurchase program pursuant to which Zale, from time to time and at management's discretion, may purchase up to an aggregate of $50 million of Zale common stock on the open market. This action represents Zale's eighth consecutive year of instituting a share repurchase program. "This decision demonstrates our continued confidence in the underlying strength of the business as we execute our strategic plan," says Forté. "Our commitment remains to make investments that create the most value for our shareholders."
Whitehall says for the six-month period ended July 31, 2004, sales increased 2.4% to $145.3 million versus $141.9 million for the six-month period ended July 31, 2003. Comparable store sales for the six-month period ended July 31, 2004, increased 1.3% compared to a decrease of 7.9% for the six-month period ended July 31, 2003.