Zale and Whitehall Comp Sales Down; Sterling Up

November 3, 2004

Zale and Whitehall Comp Sales Down; Sterling Up

Zale Corp. reported that for its first quarter ended Oct. 31, comparable store sales, which include the effects of the recent hurricanes, decreased 0.9%. Sterling Jewelers, the U.S. arm of United Kingdom-based Signet Group, reported comparable store sales for its third quarter ended Oct. 30 rose 3.5%. Whitehall Jewellers, Inc. said comparable store sales for the third quarter ended Oct. 31 decreased 3.9% compared to a 3.9% increase in the third quarter of last year.

"These first quarter sales results met our expectations, excluding the effect of the recent hurricanes," says Mary L. Forté, Zale's president and chief executive officer. "As we now approach the critical holiday period, we are well-positioned to maximize opportunities through the continued execution of our business plan. We are enhancing the entire customer experience through a more targeted marketing campaign and an increased dedication to training that will complement an array of new merchandise offerings this holiday season."

"Had it not been for the adverse impact of an unusual level of hurricane activity, which affected a number of states, we estimate the increase [in comparable store sales in the U.S.] would have been about 4%," says Terry Burman, Signet's chief executive. "August was the weakest month in the period with a strengthening trend evident during September and October." In the first nine months of the year, Sterling's comparable sales rose 6.8%.

Whitehall says for the nine-month period ended Oct. 31, comparable store sales decreased 0.3% compared to a decrease of 4.5% for the nine-month period ended October 31, 2003.

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