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Zales owner Signet sees best holiday sales in nine years amid pandemic

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Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Julia La Roche, along with Gina Drosos, Signet CEO, discuss holiday sales and a focus on e-commerce amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back. Signet Jewelers, which owns Zales, Jared, and Kay Jewelers among other brands, had a breakout holiday quarter led by a 60% surge in online sales. Joining us now is Gina Drosos. She is Signet CEO. And our very own Julia La Roche also here for this conversation.

It's so good to have you here, Gina. Look. I know that you've been going through a transformation. You closed a number of brick and mortar stores last year and really poured resources into online. How are you getting folks to agree to buy things like diamonds over computer?

GINA DROSOS: You know, some people said it couldn't be done. But that's really not the case. I think there are two things that have unlocked our capability. One is building a trusting relationship with customers. Really what they're looking for in the jewelry business is connected commerce. Good example of that would be buy online, pick up in store. We saw a huge surge in that the week before Christmas, mostly among men who still wanted a touch point with the store environment but lacked the freedom of being able to shop for their product online. So we're really connecting commerce together and creating that trusted relationship.

And then the second is visualization. You want to know how big, you know, the piece is that you're buying. I mean, how long really is an 18 inch chain? Where will it fall on my neck? And we've brought all kinds of new tools to our website and digital experience which are really helping customers be able to visualize the jewelry in advance of buying it.

JULIA LA ROCHE: You know, Gina, as Alexis was just referencing, a really strong holiday quarter. And I imagine now that we're heading into Valentine's Day-- I should tell my husband, by the way-- that folks are continuing these kinds of trends. Do you think the e-commerce part of it though will continue even as things start to open up? And why? And what are you exactly seeing as it relates to that?

GINA DROSOS: I do. I think customers have become more accustomed to buying things online in every category. And the way I think about that is that that challenges us to be an innovation leader so that we can bring the best service and experience to our customers whenever and however they want to shop. I'm encouraged that e-commerce will continue to be strong for us. When we started our path to brilliance transformation, we had only about 5% of sales in e-commerce. But we've been North of 20% even with all of our stores reopened in our third and fourth quarter. And that's I think an important indicator that the digital experience that we're bringing is unique, differentiated, meaningful for customers. And so we need to continue to make that better and better.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Gina, what would another round of stimulus checks mean for sales? I mean, that the two that we've had prior during this pandemic, does it seem as though people were taking those checks and buying jewelry online?

GINA DROSOS: Well, I think-- let's hope we get another round of stimulus checks. There are so many people in our country who desperately need that money and have really suffered through this COVID-19 crisis. We do usually see a benefit in our business from stimulus checks. And so whether those come, you know, mid to late March or even after that, I think it's a good thing for the American people on all counts.

JULIA LA ROCHE: You know, Gina, we were talking earlier about the transformation under your leadership-- of course, the digital transformation. But you've really transformed the company culturally and when it comes to diversity. I know you have some diversity news to share as it relates to some board appointments. But kind of share with us your own experience as it comes to that and what kind of results you have seen when you bring more diversity to the table whether it's at the board level, the management level, and also the field level.

GINA DROSOS: That's such a great question. Thank you, Julia. Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a hallmark of my leadership career from the beginning. I believe that companies that are more diverse make better decisions. They have an ability to see 360 degrees, which allows them to see opportunities and act quickly on those. It brings a level of agility and innovation.

It also allows companies to see risks or concerns faster and to address those head on with transparency and authenticity. I think it's an unlock for talent. Signet has a very talented organization. I'm so proud of our team and how quickly they've pivoted to the new capabilities that we've brought on. And that wouldn't be possible without a culture that encourages an entrepreneurial environment and the kind of innovation that we've been bringing.

So people are bringing their whole selves to work. And we're really unlocking discretionary effort. So I think it's very important. What I think is really important about today's new announcement about adding diversity to our board of directors is that it better represents our company and the customers we serve. 87% of Signet employees are women or represent ethnic diversity, which is a tremendous statistic.

Until this point, we had very strong gender representation on our board of directors, one of few public company boards with an equal number of men and women. And in fact, our women on the board take very strong leadership positions. Four out of five of our committees are chaired by a woman. But we didn't have racial diversity represented at the board level. And I think that was a miss. I mean, we really want everyone in the Signet organization to be able to look up and see our values represented at the highest levels.

So as we kind of embark on the next accelerated part of our transformation, we've brought on two new directors today who not only bring incredible skill sets. I mean, experts, great business leaders, entrepreneurial thinkers, agile, and lots of experience in the area of services and digital transformation, which we need. But they also represent a new level of diversity at the board level, which will inspire our entire organization.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. Gina Drosos, CEO of Signet. Good to see you. We appreciate your time.

GINA DROSOS: Great to see you, too. Happy Valentine's Day.