Friday, October 9, 2009

Michael Hill Makeover kicks off

The next step in the Michael Hill International story[MHI.NZ] has happened with the opening of their new format store in Auckland's Queen Street yesterday.

A move towards a more sophisticated look inside and out is designed to take the company towards the higher end of the jewelry market and then hopefully higher margins.

This particular outlet is what the boffins call a "flagship" store and its charcoal and grey colours, along with its new lighting design is designed specifically to get those higher end punters in the door -revamps of retail stores tend to get more punters through the door, not this shopper though.

From Michael Hill himself on the reasons for the change:

“As the original high-end retailer in this part of Queen St, we’re delighted to be delivering a contemporary shopping experience to our customers.

“It’s important to move with the retail environment. As our customers evolve so too must we. This new store design has become the benchmark for all stores going forward, Hill said.

On the purchase his company made last year of bankrupt jewelry retailer Whitehall Jewelers:

"When you're opening in a new market and opening in a place like Chicago that has been particularly depressed you can't just roll out the old thing and expect it to work. It's really when you have to do things that you come up with your best."

Hill has himself said that the Chicago purchase was a mistake (listen to Michael Hill interview - You need to register first ) because of the price paid for it so it is either a very positive move by him to spend millions on the 17 United States stores or throwing good shareholder money after bad - I tend to think he knows what he is doing but having said that the US is a particularly hard market for outsiders to crack. Pumpkin Patch Ltd [PPL.NZ] has also had recent difficulties with its US operations, incurring significant losses, so this is a very tough market, especially in the current economic conditions.

The revamp of the company image comes in a year where underlying 2009 profit has been down by more than 45% and its share price hit because of the overall retail downturn.

Michael Hill shares closed even at NZ 72c yesterday.

Disclosure I own Michael Hill International shares in the Share Investor Portfolio.

Michael Hill International @ Share Investor

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c Share Investor 2009

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