* Signet parent tests Neil Lane line in Kay, Jared stores
* Full roll-out in 2011 if test successful
By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK, Aug 2 Kay Jewelers parent Signet Jewelers Ltd (SIG.N) is raising its glamour quotient by introducing a line of diamond rings by celebrity designer Neil Lane in a bid to keep its market share gains going.
The line, introduced at a recent Los Angeles event attended by celebrities like talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and entertainer Carmen Electra, includes 36 engagement and wedding ring designs ranging in price from $2,599 to $7,799 and will go head to head with upscale jeweler Tiffany & Co (TIF.N)
Signet is initially testing the collection in about 100 Kay Jewelers stores and 30 stores in its upscale Jared chain, and plans to roll out the line into the rest of its stores next year if it meets sales targets.
Bridal sales, which include engagement, wedding and anniversary jewelry, account for 45 percent of Signet's sales.
Having unique, sexier offerings is important to staving off competition, Mark Light, chief executive of Signet's U.S. division, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
"Having that connection with the celebrities brings Hollywood glamour to Kay Jewelers in middle America," Light said.
"His (Lane's) unique differentiated styles and designs will bring us (more) bridal customers into our stores."
Light declined to say what the line's sales targets are but said that Kay's "Open Heart" line by Jane Seymour has been successful and shown how important exclusive lines are.
Signet targets the middle market that falls between Tiffany and warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O). Signet has won market share in recent years from Zale Corp ZLC.N ,as that jeweler has struggled with cash flow and sales problems, and also from the bankruptcies in the past two years of chains such as Finlays.
Signet estimates it had about 9.1 percent of the $28.3 billion U.S. specialty jewelry market in 2009, while Zale has 4.9 percent and Tiffany had 4.7 percent. Signet will report quarterly results on Aug. 26.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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