Michael Hill Continues to Lose Money in the U.S.

Brisbane, Australia–Though Michael Hill’s U.S. performance fell short of what it was expecting, the company continues to have hope for the market.

The company said that U.S. same-store sales for the fiscal year 2015-2016 ended June 30 were up 4 percent, falling short of both expectations and budget.

Operating loss was $2.3 million, which Michael Hill said was in line with its expectations and an increase over last year, when losses totaled $1.9 million.

Total U.S. sales were up 24 percent, while gross profit rose 1 percent.

Michael Hill said that a renewed focus on growing top-line sales is needed to bring its U.S. stores to a level that would justify opening more.

The company moved into the New York market for the first time last fall, opening a store in Elmhurst, Queens in September, followed by a location in the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, N.Y., a month later.

This brought the chain’s U.S. store total to 10.

Michael Hill continues to lose money here and still views it as a test market. Despite the underwhelming performance in this last fiscal year, the company still thinks that the market provides “the largest growth opportunity for the future.”

And though it has no plans to open any new stores in the United States in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the retailer said it plans to open three stores in fiscal year 2017-2018 and five stores in 2018-2019.

Michael Hill’s focus in the U.S. will continue to be on the development of proprietary bridal and fashion collections to differentiate it in the market, new marketing initiatives to reach targeted consumers and the establishment of a competitive in-house credit program.

It also is working to find the right locations for its stores, in malls with strong customer traffic flow and an appropriate retail mix, the retailer said.

Globally, the company’s comps rose 5 percent, total sales were up 10 percent to $551.1 million and gross profit was essentially flat.

Michael Hill said that branded collections revenue rose to 14 percent of total revenue during the fiscal year, and that it will continue to shift its investment in inventory from generic product to proprietary branded collections in the coming years.

The company also reported that revenues from e-commerce jumped 48 percent, driven by an uptick across all regions.

Michael Hill opened 19 new stores and closed two to bring its net total to 313 stores in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States as of June 30.

The company also announced earlier this month that its longstanding CEO, Mike Parsell, was stepping down. He has been in the position for 16 years.

Phil Taylor, the company’s chief financial officer, has been appointed as acting CEO while an international search is conducted.

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