Signet Jewelers Pivots as Love and Life Move Online

Pre-COVID-19, Jamie Singleton envisioned 2020 as a year filled with weddings, anniversaries and other festive occasions. 

“The number 2020 is so romantic and so memorable,” Jamie Singleton, president of the Kay Jewelers, Zales and Peoples divisions of Signet Jewelers Ltd., said in a conversation with WWD deputy managing editor Evan Clark. “And all signs pointed toward a great year to get engaged, to get married or to celebrate an anniversary.”

Then the pandemic hit and nonessential retailers around the world were forced to temporarily close stores in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Signet Jewelers, parent to the Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared, H. Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples Jewellers, Piercing Pagoda and brands, closed all of its North American stores in March — and didn’t begin to reopen until June. 

“Going from 90 percent in-store shopping to zero would have normally slowed us down,” Singleton said. “But we were determined not to let it slow us down this time. It actually motivated us to be scrappy and zero in on what matters most to our customers.” 

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“While large-scale gatherings and weddings are postponed, we’re finding that quarantined couples are accelerating their relationships,” Singleton said. “They’re getting engaged sooner. They’re coming up with really creative at-home and in-store and curb-side proposals and even virtual weddings.”

Case in point, Signet had more than 300,000 virtual consultations, reaching 62 million shoppers by way of chat and social media, during the shutdown. The company also began offering clienteling services, such as phone calls from sales associates, online piercing follow-ups and virtual styling and shopping appointments, where Signet employees could digitally help shoppers browse products. 

That’s on top of new technology the jewelry and accessories company integrated during quarantine, including live-advice buttons on brand web sites and image-search tools, allowing shoppers to upload photos and find similar products and styles online. The Jared brand opened a free online wedding platform, which hosted more than 200 virtual weddings. 

“Couples were able to tie the knot and have their loved ones join in a virtual experience,” Singleton said.

E-commerce sales surged 72 percent year-over-year during the most recent quarter as a result. Signet also had 78,000 curbside pickups within the same time period. And, during the current quarter, 40 percent of purchases have been from new customers, Singleton said. Shares of Signet are up approximately 13.5 percent year-over-year. 

Jamie Singleton Courtesy of Jamie Singleton

“Virtual selling at scale has propelled us forward digitally; it’s giving us a tremendous competitive advantage,” Singleton said. “This aggressive and fast-paced digital transformation led us to some seriously exciting results.”

That’s good news for Signet, which lost more than $380 million in the last two quarters and said at least 400 stores would close permanently. 

But Singleton said things are looking up. Roughly 90 percent of stores out of the company’s 3,200 locations have reopened since the shutdown, many with enhanced safety protocols. 

“A successful pivot and the positive momentum we’ve built on the digital front is evidence that our ‘Path to Brilliance’ [strategy] is working,” Singleton said. “It’s customer-first. It’s about omnichannel. And, it’s about a culture of agility and efficiency.”

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