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10 Ways to Look Stylish in Your Silver Jewelry

(Recasts headline, adds background, analyst comments) NEW YORK, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Zale Corp ZLC.N has named a retail veteran and president of Children's Place Retail Stores Inc ( PLCE.O ) to be its chief executive, effective immediately, as the jeweler streamlines its business to increase sales.

Neal Goldberg replaces Betsy Burton, who is stepping down from her management and board positions but will continue as a consultant for two years, the company said on Thursday.

Burton has been Zale's CEO since Feb. 2006. She replaced Mary Forte.

Goldberg, 48, a retail veteran who has worked for Macy's Inc ( M.N ), Victoria's Secret LTD.N and Gap Inc ( GPS.N ), has also joined Zale's board. Zale has 2,200 jewelry stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Goldberg's experience should be a positive for Zale, which is trying to improve its core mall-based sales, said Marc Bettinger, a specialty retail analyst with Stanford Group Co. To that end, Zale sold its higher-end Bailey Banks & Biddle chain earlier this year to Finlay Enterprises Inc FNLY.O.

"(Zale) has identified several high-level strategies with respect to customer, product and return on capital discipline," Goldberg said in a statement.

"I would anticipate reviewing these strategies for further refinement in order to reach our full potential." Bettinger said Burton's tenure as CEO would likely be remembered positively for bringing in a new chief financial officer, selling Bailey Banks & Biddle, and guiding Zale through its transition back to a mass retailer of diamond jewelry to middle-class America.

Burton first became CEO of Zale on an interim basis after the resignation of Mary Forte, who tried unsuccessfully during the 2005 holiday season to attract more upscale customers by selling more fashionable 14-karat gold and silver jewelry. The 2006 holiday season was not dazzling for Zale, either.

The jeweler had weak sales from merchandising missteps, which Burton had said she would change by revising the company's pricing strategy and customer service, and energizing its mall-based stores. She had also announced plans to close unprofitable stores.

Under Burton's leadership, the company shook up its management team, cutting some brand president positions to streamline operations.

But its core, mid-tier jewelry business has remained challenging for Zale as consumers grapple with rising gas and food prices, a housing slowdown and a credit crunch.

And like rival chain Kay Jewelers, owned by Britain's Signet Group Plc SIG.L, Zale faces competition at the lower end as discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc ( WMT.N ), Target Corp ( TGT.N ) and Costco Wholesale Corp ( COST.O ) sell more jewelry.

At the same time, some consumers are shopping at higher-end stores such as Tiffany & Co ( TIF.N ), Bulgari SpA BULG.MI and Van Cleef & Arpels.

In November, Zale reported a wider first-quarter loss and warned about the key holiday selling season.

"Competitively they have to try to find a way to differentiate themselves, whether its on merchandise or some combination of customer service and merchandise," Bettinger said. "They're in the middle market, which is fine, but they have to be careful that Wal-Mart and Target don't start to chip away at their share." Children's Place said its interim CEO Chuck Crovitz would oversee its management team until it names a permanent replacement for Goldberg.

The company's shares have fallen almost 60 percent this year as its Chief Executive Ezra Dabah stepped down in September and its financial auditors resigned. Children's Place also said in October it was exploring strategic options.

Zale shares were down 2.2 percent at $16.22 on the New York Stock Exchange, and Children's Place shares were down 2 percent at $27.00, both underperforming the Standard & Poor's Retail Index .RLX, which was down 0.9 percent.

10 Ways to Look Stylish in Your Silver Jewelry 1

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