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Quest Means Business

U.S. And European Travel Stocks Fall On Omicron Fears; U.K. Prime Minister Facing Rebellion In Parliament Amid Scandals; Study Finds Reduced Vaccine Effectiveness For Omicron; Time Magazine Names Elon Musk Person Of The Year; Signet: Engagements Up Over Pre-Pandemic Levels; Dow Set More Than 300 Points Lower. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 13, 2021 - 15:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: It is a down day to start the week on Wall Street. The Dow has been off by triple digits for most of the day.

You can see it there on the big board. Those are the markets and these are the main events. We're down two-thirds of a percent.

Airline stocks are sinking over omicron now that some carriers are asking for government help, and a new Oxford study shows some vaccines are

struggling against the new variant, the head of the UNICEF is on this program, and Elon Musk is "Time" Magazine's Person of the Year.

Live from London. It is Monday, December the 13th. I'm Hala Gorani, I am in for Richard Quest and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

So you saw that the Dow was down and travel stocks on both sides of the Atlantic are struggling today as U.K. airline executives are warning that

new travel restrictions could cause permanent "scarring" quote-unquote.

Fears over the omicron variant's impact on the recovery very much at play here. Shares in airlines and cruise companies are down much sharper than

the overall markets in New York.

You see it there. For instance, American Airlines down almost four percent. It is the same in the U.K., airlines are asking the government for

financial support to weather the latest COVID surge. They're also criticizing the reintroduced travel restrictions as quote "haphazard and


The owners of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson and Delta Air Lines are pumping more than half a billion dollars to help the carrier stay afloat.

Eleni Giokos is with us from Athens with more on these fears because now that we have new travel restrictions reintroduced, it's going to have to

have an impact on airlines and the tourism industry.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. I mean, look, the bloodbath that we've seen today with airline stocks are basically telling us two

things. Firstly, markets are forward looking and we are starting to think deeply about what this last quarter of 2021 is going to mean for the


And then secondly, can the airline industry handle a prolonged travel ban and you can cast your mind back to the great shutdown of 2020, where the

airline industry lost almost $140 billion, and you know that when we started to see things sort of returning to more normal in 2021, there was

hope that things would get back on track.

This impassioned letter that was written by airline executives to the British Prime Minister really is quite poignant and of course shows that

there is still a lot of fear and risk in the markets and these let -- you know people have signed, executives have signed from Virgin Atlantic, from

British Airways, from EasyJet as well, and Ryanair, saying they have to do away with PCR tests for the vaccinated because PCR tests in the U.K. can

cost up to 399 pounds.

I mean, who would have thought? And then of course, easing travel restrictions, and then also importantly, that they're going to need some

kind of bailout or economic assistance and that is quite an important point, because that means that they are still not where they need to be in

terms of demand.

The pain is far reaching, it is global. If I look at what Emirates is doing right now, and of course, we know it is an important transit hub for the

world through Dubai. Emirates has been getting back on track, but they had to offload so many of their staff.

We caught up with the President, Tim Clark, and he said that the travel bans are draconian.

Hala, listen to this.


TIM CLARK, PRESIDENT, EMIRATES: What we finding that countries are taking positions as if it was the delta variant, and therefore, they are being

fairly draconian in the short term, I believe, and then as it becomes apparent, I hope that this variant is not so potent in its effect on the

population, that they'll relax the rules and people will become more ready to make bookings and travel.

So on the back of the resurgence in demand post the dealing with the delta variant, this was considered to be a possible setback in terms of what we

are going to do in the next few months, even in December, of course, very strong for Dubai.

I'm not convinced that we need to be that concerned about it.


GIOKOS: And he is also calling for getting rid of PCR tests for the vaccinated, but Emirates is looking strong at the moment and comparatively

speaking to what we see with other airlines globally.

But the message is clear as well that passengers are stuck. Tourists are stuck. Business people are stuck.

If they're not stuck now, they are afraid of being trapped in a country where they won't be able to get out of.


GIOKOS: I'm in quarantine right now, Hala, in Athens also trying to desperately get home, and these travel bans have been so aggressively, so

quickly, that not even the airline industry had anticipated that and it has received so much backlash globally, specifically from the countries that

are currently on the Red List, even though the omicron variant has already been discovered in so many parts around the world and we already know the

U.K. is saying it is going to be the dominant variant by the middle of this month.

GORANI: And what about -- I mean, will this year be a lost year, if this keeps going for some of these big airlines?

GIOKOS: it is going to be lost year. I think that if you look at the demand that we saw during the Northern Hemisphere summer, it was

encouraging. But are we back to pre-COVID levels? Absolutely not.

The hope that 2022 was going to bring that to the fore was definitely on track. There was a lot of anticipation that tourism and travel would

recover, but no one had anticipated that with new risks coming to the fore like variants, that again, governments would do the same in terms of

lockdowns, even though many say they don't actually work.

When you still have things like wearing masks and being able to, you know vaccinate passengers and then you can put other measures in place, airline

industry leaders are warning of the repercussions and Hala, billions are going to be lost once again.

GORANI: All right, Eleni Giokos in Athens, thanks.

The U.K. is ramping up its booster rollout as it faces a tidal wave of omicron cases. The British government now aims to provide every eligible

adult in the country, another dose of the COVID vaccine by the end of this month. That's a month earlier than initially planned and you can see some

of the lines outside vaccination centers, they are forming pretty much every day over the last several days and the National Health Service says

that its online booking system has been completely overwhelmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the new variant now accounts for 40 percent of all new cases in London, and is likely to dominate as early as

tomorrow in the capital.

He confirmed the country's first death of a patient with omicron as Salma Abdelaziz reports, Mr. Johnson will try to pass new restrictions through

Parliament, while facing some major credibility issues of his own.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice over): Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to save his credibility and office after a week of scandal that

set off public fury.


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): The latest hit coming from British tabloid "The Mirror." A newly leaked photo showed Johnson at a Christmas party quiz

inside Downing Street December last year, at a time when indoor social gatherings were banned in London.

Downing Street admits Johnson took part in the virtual event briefly, but added those participating in person were already working in their offices.

It adds to mounting information that multiple parties took place at the Prime Minister's office and residence last year, a brazen violation of


CNN has confirmed that two social gatherings were indeed held. One on November 27th and another on December 18th, and that Johnson himself gave

an impromptu speech at the first one.

Days earlier, a leaked video of a mock press conference showed officials laughing about the alleged December 18th Christmas party.

Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister's spokesperson seen in the video --


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Apologized and resigned shortly after.

Last week, Johnson launched an investigation into the social gatherings. Still, he has continuously denied that any party's took place or any

restrictions were broken.

JOHNSON: I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules, but the whole thing will be looked into by the Cabinet Secretary and what I'm focused on,

frankly, is the vaccine rollout.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): It comes as health officials warn omicron cases in the U.K. are doubling every two to three days.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister pled for compliance with new COVID rules and urged everyone eligible to get boosted.

JOHNSON: There is a tidal wave of omicron coming.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): But the country's opposition leader, Keir Starmer, said Johnson is a threat to public health and no longer fit for


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Now that trust is broken and many people are now saying, well, if the Prime Minister is going to allow

breaking of the rules, parties, quizzes going on in Downing Street when we're being asked not to see our loved ones, well, why should I follow the


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Johnson is set to be back in Parliament this week to push new COVID measures. He is expected to face a rebellion from his own

party appearing to lose faith even among his own circle.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.



GORANI: So Boris Johnson is facing and experiencing a lot of pressure. He is facing discontent, not only among his own MPs, some businesses are now

also openly expressing skepticism about his leadership. They are mocking him even.

Take a look at this tweet from the official Ryanair account. It is mocking Boris Johnson's alleged rule breaking. For example, next to tier four, it

says "Boris topless, asking Thatcher's portrait, if she comes here often."

People are joking about it all over the place, even on mainstream TV shows.

Nina dos Santos joins us now from London with more, and I wonder when does it become truly politically problematic for the Prime Minister? And by

that, I mean, when does his party start saying Boris Johnson is just too much of a liability?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's the big question this evening in Downing Street. It is something that people have been asking

themselves with increasing frequency over the last few torrid days, Hala.

The Prime Minister is locked in this difficult cycle where he is having to explain whether or not people behind this door in Downing Street breached

those COVID rules this time last year when the disease was claiming many hundreds of lives every single day, at a time when of course, he is having

to ask his own Parliamentarians begrudgingly to vote on fresh COVID restrictions amid this wave of the omicron variant that is becoming

increasingly concerning for his Health Secretary.

It also means that many people now will have to kiss goodbye to non-urgent National Health Services operations over the next few days, as of course

the country tries to focus on this booster program.

Now, when it comes to that crucial vote that's going to take place tomorrow, it is looking as though he's going to have to rely upon the

opposition party votes to try and push that through amid talk of a huge rebellion perhaps the biggest of his tenure so far, that could happen on

voting in some of these tougher COVID measures.

It doesn't look good, and if of course that happens, there are big question marks over whether further down the line, if this scandal isn't forgotten

this time come January, the PM might at some point during his time face a no confidence vote.

Now, the Conservative Party is well-known for having very painful leadership contests. I don't think we're anywhere near a point like that.

The party is by no means over for Boris Johnson if you like, Hala, but it is time to do some tidying up. And then of course comes, we've got this

pincer grip with yet another wave of COVID around the corner.

One thing I want to talk about in terms of his credibility is whether or not having now promised to try and offer a vaccination booster shot if you

like to every single 18-year-old plus, every adult in the U.K. by the end of this month, there are big question marks over whether or not that will

actually be feasible, question marks in the N.H.S. whether you can really vaccinate a million people every day to stick to that target.

So perhaps a distraction technique, more political turmoil to come, but whether or not they are going to be able to do that vaccination program is

another big thing that people will be looking at in the New Year to come -- Hala.

GORANI: Well, we know people are responding to the call. We've seen those long lines and hopefully we'll get to boost as many people as possible.

Thanks so much, Nina.

A new study from Oxford University is adding support to the call for COVID booster shots. Researchers found that two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca

had reduced effectiveness against omicron.

After the break, we will speak to the head of UNICEF about what that means for the worldwide vaccination effort. We know so many parts of the world --

in so many parts of the world, people haven't even received a single dose.

So we'll be right back with that important story after the break.



GORANI: Well, a new study is raising concerns about the potential spread of omicron especially in the developing world.

Researchers at Oxford University studied the impact of the variant on two widely used vaccines, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. They found their

effectiveness against symptomatic disease was significant lower compared to the delta variant.

In the case of AstraZeneca, widely used in the developing world and early on in the U.K., there was quote, "no protective effect of vaccination

against symptomatic disease with omicron from 15 weeks after the second dose," 15 short weeks. There is no evidence to suggest that the variant

would lead to an increase in severe disease or death though.

Henrietta Fore is Executive Director of UNICEF, and she joins me now live from New York. Thanks so much for being with us. What is your, at UNICEF,

the vaccination plan going forward for you? What are you hoping to achieve in the coming year in the developing world specifically?

HENRIETTA FORE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNICEF: Hi, Hala. Yes. So, at UNICEF, we are trying to vaccinate the world. We particularly want to be sure that

the frontline workers, the healthcare workers, those who are involved with the social services, teachers are getting vaccinated.

As you know, the numbers in the developing world are very low, many of the countries, it is three percent of their populations. So, we need to get

them protected so that the health systems in the developing world do not crash.

They are often fragile, and they really need the help of having health workers at work so that they can help the many people who are coming

through their doors.

GORANI: Your job just basically about 50 percent harder when you read the results of this research and this study by Oxford University that two jabs

of AstraZeneca doesn't really protect you from omicron infection after 15 weeks out from the second job. So you're really looking at a scenario

potentially where the world will have to get three jabs before people are fully protected.

How do you manage that?

FORE: Well, it is a very big logistical challenge. So Hala, as you know, we procure vaccines, we deliver them. We then work with a countries and the

Health Ministries to make sure that the nurses and healthcare workers are trained to give the vaccinations and we work with social media and general

media so that we can inform the populace that there is a campaign coming.

And what has happened for many of them is that they are picking up little bits and pieces of information, and therefore, they have a preference for a

certain vaccine or another.

But our experience is that all of the vaccines that are approved by W.H.O. are safe and that they work. We do not yet know how long they will work for

which of the variants, but the faster we can vaccinate the world, the fewer variants that we will have and the better we will come out as a world. We

will all come out of this together if we can just vaccinate all countries.

GORANI: And UNICEF is considering acquiring vaccines that haven't gotten the greenlight from the W.H.O. yet and the hope is that they will get that

greenlight soon.

FORE: There are lots of new vaccines that are coming onto the market just as there are new therapeutics and diagnostics and many other therapies that

are coming out, so everyone is evaluated, and once W.H.O. gives the seal of approval, it then goes into our pipelines for procurement and for delivery

to countries that are part of COVAX or part of AVAT, which is the Africa version of the world's vaccine pool.


FORE: So we will be procuring from all sources, but there are lots of companies that are now interested in how they can help. And therefore, we

have lots of new products that are coming online.

GORANI: Where are you facing -- where are your biggest challenges? And why? In what parts of the world?

FORE: Africa, number one. Ground zero. We just have not gotten enough vaccines into Africa. Part of the problem is that there is a log jam in the

supply of vaccines, and that's been the story of 2021, we could not get a hold of enough of the vaccines.

Eighty percent of the vaccines went into the developed world, so the developing world didn't have it. And as a result, that put us behind, but

then came the problems of making sure that a country has approved the particular vaccine that is coming to their country. Do they have a way of

logistically taking care of it?

You know, vaccines need to be refrigerated? For some, it is ultra-cold chain? Do they have that? Did they have nurses and healthcare workers who

were trained even in the rural clinics?

We now have little solar operated refrigerators for vaccines, because as you know, Hala, we do lots of vaccines every year for children under five.

So, there is a whole system, but many of these countries, it is difficult to get this system to work.

GORANI: Yes, and you mentioned the fact that vaccines need refrigeration. Some of them like Pfizer have very specific storage requirements and then

at the beginning of the program to -- the COVAX program, some vaccines would actually go bad. They would have to throw them out because they

didn't have an opportunity to distribute them to the people who needed them. Are you also facing these logistical issues in your efforts?

FORE: Yes, we face all sorts of issues that way. So one is manufacturing to make sure that all of the vaccines that are manufactured are of the

right quality, we double check that, then you have to be sure that when they're in-country that the transportation has actually cared for the

vaccines in the right way, and we double check that, and then that people are trained to know the exact dosage, that there are syringes, that there

are safety boxes for the syringes. So the whole chain has to work well.

But our sense right now is that we can do this, we know what needs to be done, and we have the countries hard work on this.

So what we need right now is to be able to help the country, so funding to help some of these lower and middle income countries who really have

healthcare systems that are underfunded, and are really stretched with healthcare workers that are coming in, but there aren't enough of them.

So we have to ramp up as a world to vaccinate the world to actually get the vaccines in their arms. That's the challenge for 2022.

GORANI: All right, we wish you good luck with that. And as we've said so many times, it benefits the whole world when everyone gets vaccinated, not

just obviously in the country in question.

Thank you, Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF, we really appreciate it.

Mainland China is now reporting its first case of omicron in the City of Tianjin. State-run media say it was identified in a traveler that came in

from overseas. It comes as China battles a new surge of COVID cases and some authorities are urging residents not to travel during the upcoming

Chinese New Year.

Kristie Lu Stout has details from Hong Kong.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: COVID-19 cases continue to rise in China especially in the factory and shipping hub of Zhejiang Province.

On Sunday, China reported 80 new local cases of the virus including 74 in Zhejiang and this is significant. China's epicenter of infection has moved

away from China's northern Inner Mongolia region to the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, a major manufacturing hub. It is home to tech giant,

Alibaba, as well as a major shipping port Ningbo-Zhoushan. It's the world's third busiest container port.

In fact, back in August, a single confirmed case shut down the port for weeks, causing shipping congestion and wreaking havoc on the global supply


And now, more than a dozen Chinese-listed companies have said that they had suspended production in parts of Zhejiang in response to local COVID-19


As COVID-19 cases rise, some local authorities are like last year, urging residents not to travel during the Lunar New Year. The Holiday starts

January 31st and this is when hundreds of millions of people including migrant workers travel home for family reunions creating an effect the

world's largest annual human migration.


STOUT: Already, three places are urging workers to stay put, including a district in Zhangjiakou in Hubei province. That's one of the host cities

for the Winter Olympics.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: The Mexican City of Cancun is known the world over as a beautiful and relaxing travel destination, but now, gang violence is on the rise

there with multiple high profile shootings in just the last few weeks.

CNN's Matt Rivers explains what the government is trying to do about it.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The gunfire started on the Beach on November 4th, just outside the Hyatt Ziva Resort

just south of Cancun. Authorities said a gunfight between rival drug gangs erupted on the beach sending tourists fleeing indoors.

Video from Twitter user Mike Sington shows guests sheltering in place in the hotel, some in the back room, and others in the lobby.

Less than two months before a shooting at this restaurant in Tulum, again authorities say between rival drug gangs left two tourists dead. And just

in the past week, several men pulled up to a Cancun beach on jet skis and fired their guns in the air.

Multiple security incidents in recent months have some questioning just how safe Cancun is, a tourist magnet that draws millions of sun seekers every

year. A few say they are rattled by the violence.

"I don't feel safe here," says this Brazilian tourist, "As tourists, we don't feel safe. We've seen multiple recent incidents on the news."

The Federal government has taken notice. Nearly 1,500 National Guard troops have now been deployed to the State of Quintana Roo specifically focusing

on Cancun and other tourist areas nearby.

Mexico's President says, "These are painful events because nationals and foreigners lose their lives and this cannot be repeated. We have to prevent

that from happening. So that's why we have a plan to reinforce security." But all that said is traveling to Quintana Roo State and its popular travel

destinations like Cancun or Tulum too dangerous? Tourism officials in Mexico told CNN that the vast, vast majority of the millions of visitors

that come here each year do so without incident and that any violence almost always stays between drug gangs.

Though the U.S. government says travelers should use increased caution, it doesn't recommend avoiding the state like it does so many other places in

Mexico and the number of tourists has shot up as the pandemic has eased.

"The government at all levels in hand with the citizenry is committed to protecting each and every visitor," said the former Minister of Tourism in

Tulum, Eugenio Barbachano.

Crime Statistics in the state have largely held steady in recent years, too. So there is no doubt that recent headlines have some people spooked

and rightly so. Drug gangs remain operating and so too does the collateral damage that comes with it. But Cancun succumbing to crime, becoming an

unsafe place for tourists? Those ideas seem premature.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


GORANI: Well, after the break something completely different, something romantic.

Sparkle and shine. Love struck millennials apparently are helping fuel jewelry sales as one company reports a rebound in engagements. The CEO of

Signet Jewelers will join me next.



GORANI: 2021 was Elon Musk's year according to Time Magazine. Time named the man behind Tesla and SpaceX its Person of the Year. He's had some 2021.

In January, he became the world's richest man surpassing Jeff Bezos times_f 1991 Nine Person of the Year. By October Tesla's market cap hit $1

trillion. In April SpaceX launched its third manned mission sending four astronauts to the International Space Station.

Musk coast to the TV shows Saturday Night Live in May joking about dodge coin and sending the crypto falling. Last month he sold 10 percent of his

Tesla stock seemingly in response to a Twitter poll. The Time editor in chief said Musk emerged as "the richest example of a massive shift in our

society." Odd may -- oddsmakers had different front runners. The safe bets this year were frontline and essential workers.

The World Health Organization, Joe Biden again, Dr. Anthony Fauci and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris again. Paul La Monica joins me now with more.

So, why Musk? Because we've been doing nothing but talking about COVID and vaccines. And I really thought it would be vaccine makers, vaccine

manufacturers or something along those lines. What -- why ?


GORANI: -- billionaire on the cover?

LA MONICA: Yes. I think it is -- I think it's a bit of a surprise, Hala, that you did not have a person or organization that is more closely aligned

with the pandemic response. I think that definitely comes as a surprise to a lot of people. But when you look back over the years, you mentioned Jeff

Bezos getting the award in 1999. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, excuse me, meta as they're now calling themselves won it in 2010.

So, it does seem that every couple of years the editors at Time decide to name a businessman, not businesswoman, unfortunately yet, but just a

businessman as their Person of the Year. I -- regards to Musk he obviously is a very well-known person to the average individual that may not be

invested in the stock market for the reasons you mentioned. They know about him being on Saturday Night Live poking fun of cryptocurrencies, think he

was on The Simpsons a couple of years ago.


LA MONICA: Everyone was about Tesla and SpaceX. And these are exciting dynamic businesses, electric cars, and launching rockets into space. It's

something I think we can all get behind as an American business, you know, titans of industry.

GORANI: Yes. But -- so obviously not everyone's happy about this. Elizabeth Warren, the senator, let's change the tax code. So the Person of the Year

will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading. I mean, others don't like him because he's rude. He replied to Bernie Sanders. I keep having to remind

myself that you're alive. He's impulsive. You know, he's blasting into space. And that's the kind of like, well, when billionaires have bought

everything on earth, they then have to, you know, in order to project this kind of dominant image, go into outer space that kind of thing.


So it's seen as sort of like celebrating that behavior by some.

LA MONICA: Well, I think it goes without saying holiday. He is a controversial person and a controversial choice. But what I think people

have to remember is that one, Time never can get it right, if you will, for the many critics of this award. A lot of times they have just named groups

or individuals. Remember when they named you, we all won Time Person of the Year, I forget what year was but when they are celebrating the, you know,

YouTube and social media phenomenon, that seemed like a cop out to me.

GORANI: That was like everyone get ? that was like everyone gets a trophy. I know. It was a little weird that year.

LA MONICA: I think what happens is that, you know, the editors at Time, they are going to go out of their way to remind us that this isn't

necessarily them saying that a person accomplished a lot for the good of humanity necessarily. Not to say that Elon Musk is bad for the planet. But

remember, politicians often win this award. And, you know, you can say what you want about Democrats and Republicans.

I think Time is trying to pick the person that had the most impact on the news world in that particular year. And that could be a President Biden,

Kamala Harris, Vice President Harris like it was last year. President Trump back when he won the election in 2016. This isn't them saying we love your

policies. We love your politics. You just made news and you're influential.

GORANI: Paul La Monica, thanks very much. There is no hitch getting a ring if you're planning to get married this holiday season. And if you're a

millennial, you might be. Millennials apparently are helping boost sales for Signet jewelers. The retail giant bind brings brands like Jared and

Kay's, its shares are up about 200 percent year to date. Its CEO says the company has prepared -- has prepared for supply chain issues and is

confident that its stores will have plenty of inventory this holiday season.

Gina Drosos is the CEO of Signet Jewelers and she joins me now. Thanks for being with us. So, the millennials are getting engaged. These are what,

delayed celebrations from last year, finally happening this year, pushing up demand?

GINA DROSOS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SIGNET JEWELERS: Well, that's right. So, 2021 has been a big year for engagements. We've seen engagements up

high single digits versus a typical pre COVID year. It kind of follows on then that next year will be a big year for weddings. Venues are booked. But

that's still good news for engagements because the most likely people to get engaged just went to someone else's wedding or were in their wedding.

So, very important to us to be able to serve all of our customers to celebrate that really special moment.

GORANI: But ? I mean, you must still be nervous because we're seeing for instance, here in Europe Omicron ruin people's holiday plans, people's

vacations, even in some cases, people's Christmas reunions. And so it's always I guess, a little bit -- how do you -- how do you plan when there is

so much uncertainty and so many unknowns for a business like yours?

DROSOS: I think it's really about planning in advance and being agile. Honestly, our team started planning for this holiday season last March. We

got our orders and worked with our vendors to have beautiful new designs. We did all of that about a month earlier than we normally would. What that

allowed us to do was spread out some of our production over the summer, so that if the factories were experiencing issues with staffing due to COVID,

we could still get all of our holiday product on time.

We did. We've also been doing a lot of work on inventory, and really moving older inventory out of our stores. We now have capability to ship on E-com

from all of our stores across the country. So what that does is it makes the -- makes the inventory that's in the stores even newer and fresher and

more exciting for our customers. So, we're always cautious. It's a very important time of year for us because it is for our customers.

But at the same time we did plan and our team did a great job making sure that we were stocked and staffed for this holiday season.

GORANI: And how are the -- how are the numbers looking in terms of revenue, in terms of profit this year versus last year?

DROSOS: Well, you might have seen we just reported our third quarter earnings last week. It was the most profitable, highest revenue, quarter on

record for Signet. So a very strong quarter. And it really represents several years of transformation. The transformation that we're in is called

inspiring brilliance. Our employees gave it that name and I think it does inspire all of us on -- to do more but we've done a lot of work to better

understand our customers to have the right product and the right assortment in each of our different banners.


So we're able to cast our net wider. As a result we're growing market share, and we've added significant digital capabilities better faster Web

sites all the way through to fulfillment. I mean, we can deliver rings to people directly from our stores. As I mentioned, we have curbside pickup

even same day delivery for orders of some jewelry.

GORANI: Right. Curbside pickup for that engagement ring could come in (INAUDIBLE) it's always a happy occasion, isn't it? When people decide that

they've found their soulmate and they want to make it official. Thank you, Gina Drosos, the CEO of Signet. Thank you for joining us. That is ?

DROSOS: Thank you so much.

GORANI: -- QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this evening. I'll be back at the top of the hour as we make a dash for the closing bell. Up next though is

Connecting Africa.



GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani. It's the dash to the closing bell and we're just two minutes away. Worry is the word of the day on Wall Street. Major

central banks are preparing to meet one more time before the end of the year. And the Dow is down more than 300 points. You see that now. It

plummeted at the open. It was off more than 350 points at the session low. So it's very close to its session low.

All the major average averages are down. Investors are worried about inflation and tighter monetary policy. Fed Chair Jay Powell suggested

tapering should speed up and the Fed has signaled that interest rates could go up next year. The tech heavy NASDAQ is down the most, you see it there.

It's lagged behind the other major averages over the last week. Let's take a look at the Dow 30 components.

There's a row of green on the screen and that's Coca-Cola and Johnson and Johnson. Both are up roughly two percent. Boeing, Home Depot and the

chemical company Dow are at the bottom. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee released a report on the two Boeing 737 Max crashes today. It said the

Federal Aviation Administration had to do a better job providing oversight for Boeing and certifying new planes. And that is one of the reasons that

the stock is impacted.


GORANI: And that is your dash to the bell. I'm Hala Gorani. The closing bell is ringing ?