Searching for buried treasure Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2007

Consumers may not immediately recognize the name of U.K.-based Signet Group plc or its Akron-based U.S. division, Sterling Jewelers Inc., but Sterling’s brands — mall-based Kay Jewelers and Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry superstores — strike a familiar chord with shoppers nationwide.

With 1,308 stores across all 50 states, Sterling is the largest specialty retail jeweler in the United States. Paula Catterall, the company’s senior director, and Dale Stincic, its vice president, say the company has grown steadily over the past few years due to its focus on outstanding customer service, depth of selection in merchandising, retail excellence and overall customer value. They say that Sterling’s growth is driven by a commitment to brand-name investments, trust and an aggressive store development program.

Catterall and Stincic understand that today’s retail customers have high expectations. Shoppers want personal, expert advice and service, and retail operations must meet and exceed those needs to come out on top. Sterling prepares its employees for this challenge through enhanced training, and its innovative merchandising system for supply chain management has been supported by an upgrade in internal store communications.

Strategically planned real estate development has also fueled Sterling’s growth, increasing total space of retail operations through the opening of off-mall locations and investment in the Kay outlet center and superstore concepts. The company also has excelled in merchandising innovations, such as improved diamond sourcing, developing the right-hand ring promotions, and the marketing of the Peerless Diamond and the Leo Diamond in its Jared locations.

Marketing continues to be an area of investment and innovation for Sterling. While other retailers have drifted from television branding, Sterling has increased advertising spending on national and local cable and network television. As a result, the company has reaped great rewards, improving its brand awareness scores and driving increased retail traffic into the stores.

Sterling’s managers say the company owes its success to its competitive advantages in store operations, human resources, real estate selection and development, merchandising, marketing, and credit operations. These advantages are reflected in above-industry-average sales per store and operating profit margins.

HOW TO REACH: Sterling Jewelers Inc., (800) 743-4401 www.signetgroupplc.com