Signet Jewelers continues to transform itself to meet changing consumer needs, the jewelry retailer’s chief executive told an Akron audience.

That transformation includes a need to lay off employees to help cut costs in addition to more strongly emphasizing online and mobile technologies to reach customers, Virginia Drosos said as the keynote speaker at Thursday’s monthly Akron Roundtable luncheon at Quaker Station downtown.

Signet this week said it would lay off employees after not getting enough people at its 2,600-person Akron campus and at two other locations to participate in a voluntary buyout program.

In response to a question from the roundtable audience, Drosos declined to say how many people will be leaving the company.

“So, it’s been a tough week, no question,” Drosos said. “At Signet, this is really part of a much broader cost-savings effort.”

The job cuts are part of a strategy to reshape the workforce in a way to help deliver the company’s growth priorities, she said.

“Obviously, a lot has changed in the retail world and so the skill sets we need today are somewhat different than they were in the past,” she said. “So we made some decisions to trim our workforce and our support centers and that impacts a number of our different sites. It impacts London, it impacts Akron, it impacts Dallas, so a number of places where we have headquarters-based employees. We haven’t talked about any particular numbers on that.”

Employees leaving the company will get transition help, Drosos said.

Drosos was hired as CEO in 2017 after serving five years on Signet’s board of directors. She previously was president of Assurex Health and before that spent 25 years at Procter & Gamble, including as group president.

Signet is in the second year of a three-year strategy called “Path to Brilliance” designed to make the jewelry retailer more agile and focused on changing customer needs. The company said it saved $85 million in the first year of the Path to Brilliance plan.

The company has been struggling financially and lost money on $6.2 billion in revenue in its fiscal 2019 year in part because of an unexpectedly weak holiday sales season. The stock price over the past 52 weeks has ranged from a low of $22.04 to a high of $71.07. Thursday the stock rose 12 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $22.71.

Company brands include Kay Jewelers, Jared, Zales, Piercing Pagoda and others.

Signet is evolving to be more innovative, with change largely driven by the internet, Drosos said.

About 70 percent of Signet customers first interact with the company via the internet, she said.

“Signet was too slow to react” to the changes around it and has been too reliant on stores in malls, she said.

The company has about 3,300 stores.

Signet has been closing underperforming mall stores while opening new stores in off-mall sites. It also purchased a popular online jewelry retailer, JamesAllen.com, in 2017.

The company also is finding different ways to market itself and its products, including through an upcoming live-action remake of the Disney movie "Aladdin."

Drosos did a bit of marketing herself at the roundtable — she wore and showed off new jewelry that will be coming to market soon.

Drosos said Signet will for the first time spend more money to market itself through social media, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, than it will on television commercials.

While Signet is in transition, it remains committed to the Akron community, Drosos said.

The company recently began giving employees paid time off to do local volunteer work, she said. Drosos also recently joined the board of directors at Akron Children’s Hospital.

 

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ