Michael Hill International says its online sales hit new highs in its fourth quarter of trade, up almost 200 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.

The jewellery retailer's adjusted same store sales were down 4.1 per cent in Q4 following a staggered approach to reopen its 290 stores, but it said it experienced some of its highest weeks of trade in the company's history in the quarter for e-commerce sales - up 193 per cent on the same time a year earlier.

E-commerce sales now account for 4.6 per cent of total sales, up from 2.8 per cent in FY19.

Michael Hill closed 11 of its underperforming stores in the quarter; seven in Australia, three in New Zealand and one in Canada in response to impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.


The company's adjusted same store sales increased 2.7 per cent in the full year.

Its same store sales in Canada were down 38 per cent in the quarter, almost 11 per cent in New Zealand and 8 per cent in Australia.

It operates the majority of its stores in Australia, 49 in New Zealand and 70 in Canada.

In an NZX trading update, the company said it had taken "clear and decisive action" to preserve cash in the quarter, including by cancelling or deferring capital expenditure and laying off staff, including more than 100 support office staff, and had focused on improving its margins.

"The Company has taken decisive action to emerge with a modernised agile operating structure. Reflecting on lessons learnt during Covid-19, and the ongoing transformation to a digital omni-channel retailer, the business has undertaken a restructure, delivering a leaner support office," it said in the update.

Michael Hill said its increase in online sales in the quarter were accelerated by its investment in its website and virtual selling initiatives such as virtual appointments and through social media platform WeChat.

Daniel Bracken, chief executive of Michael Hill International, said he was pleased with the company's digital performance and how it had handled disruption from the global pandemic.

"Michael Hill has emerged from the pause in store trading as a leaner, stronger and more focused business. I'm very proud of the professionalism demonstrated by all our people over the last four months as we navigated the complexity of a global pandemic - whether it be the health and safety of our team and customers, new instore protocols, the unwavering focus on costs or our resilient and robust return to trade," Bracken said in the market update.


He said the reopening of the store network had delivered pleasing sales despite lower foot traffic, and that the pandemic had made it focus on its omni-channel operating model.

"There is no doubt that economic uncertainty will continue, given future government stimulus packages in all markets remain unclear, and ongoing volatility in consumer confidence is likely.

"As recent circumstances in Victoria have demonstrated, further Covid-19 outbreaks pose additional risks. With these risks in mind, Michael Hill has moved swiftly in addressing our operating model and associated cost base. Having said this, the Company has experienced a solid start to the 2021 financial year, with all markets and channels ahead of prior year."

Subscribe to Premium