7 Nov 2011

US hard market to crack for Michael Hill jewellery stores

8:06 am on 7 November 2011

Sir Michael Hill says it will be years before his chain of jewellery stores has a foothold in the United States.

The Michael Hill International chairman says the company needs to advertise on television to establish its brand in the US, where it has nine stores.

But Sir Michael says the firm cannot afford television advertising in the US until it has many more stores, and the fragile economy is making it difficult to build the business there.

It might take 10 years for the company to be profitable in the US, but it all depends on how the economy goes, he says.

The company's shift from a discount chain to a more upmarket brand is starting to pay off, Sir Michael says.

Diamonds are the biggest business for the chain, with the precious stone making up 60% of the goods sold, including a pair of earrings worth $250,000 and a ring worth more than $1 million.

The company is to unveil its own perfume range before Christmas and Sir Michael is close to finalising his own golf tournament which will be played on his Arrowtown course.

The company has 146 stores in Australia, 33 in Canada and 52 in New Zealand.