'CHALLENGING' TRADING CONDITIONS LEAD TO SOFT SALES FOR MICHAEL HILL

'CHALLENGING' TRADING CONDITIONS LEAD TO SOFT SALES FOR MICHAEL HILL
SOFT sales in Australia and New Zealand have hit the share price of retail jeweller Michael Hill International (ASX: MHJ), as the company closed down by more than 3 per cent at $1.355.

Outstripping out new store openings, same store sales were up a slight 0.8 per cent to $417 million in its core Australia and New Zealand markets compared to $414 million for the corresponding nine-month period to March 31.

"Trading conditions in Australia and New Zealand continue to be challenging and same store sales were relatively flat for the third quarter," the company said in a statement to the ASX.

Total sales were up 5.5 per cent on the corresponding period and the standout performer for the company was the Canadian segment which recorded same store sales growth of 7 per cent and total sales growth of 16.9 per cent.

Michael Hill's fledgling Emma & Roe brand recorded a 1 per cent decline in same store sales but total sales growth in the bracelet and charms retailer was up by 70 per cent.

The company also outlined its expansion plans would have a strong focus on the US despite a "poor quarter".

"The US business continues to struggle after a disrupted first half, however management are now firmly focused on positioning this test market for a much-improved year in 2017-18," the company says. 

"Our US business had a poor March quarter and we finished the nine months 11 per cent down for same stores.

"After some management changes in September last year we are in the process of rebuilding this test market under the leadership of our North American president Brett Halliday.

"This will take some time but plans are underway to position for same store growth revenue in the 2017-18 financial year."

The trading update capped off a challenging week for Michael Hill International with the news that its former CEO Mike Parsell and former group marketing officer Sue Szylvester had both joined rival jewellery store chain Secrets.

Shares in MHJ closed down just over 3 per cent to $1.355.

Business News Australia

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