By  on January 11, 2007

NEW YORK — Tiffany & Co. posted robust holiday sales Wednesday, and said it was looking at opening at least 15 stores this year.

The company said sales rose 15 percent to $818.1 million during the Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2006 period. On a constant exchange basis, sales rose 14 percent while worldwide comparable stores rose 7 percent.

"We saw healthy sales increases in many product categories ranging from diamonds to silver jewelry," said Michael Kowalski, chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Kowalski said based in part on holiday sales results, the company is expecting full-year earnings for the period ending Jan. 31 to be between $1.82 and $1.85 a diluted share, which includes an 11 to 12 percent growth in earnings before income taxes.

By region, U.S. retail sales rose 12 percent to $432.4 million, while comps gained 8 percent. The comps gain was attributable in part to a 15 percent rise in sales growth at the retailer's New York flagship and a 7 percent comps gain at branch stores. International sales rose 18 percent to $283.5 million. On a constant exchange rate basis, sales rose 14 percent and comps jumped 6 percent. Strong sales growth was achieved in most international markets, which helped offset a same-store sales decline in Japan, the company said. Tiffany also said direct marketing sales rose 10 percent to $69.7 million, due to increases in orders and dollars spent per transaction.

Citing the success of new stores, Kowalski said the company's plans for 2007 include between five and seven new store openings in the U.S. and 10 internationally. Those plans also call for the introduction of a "wide range of new products."

He noted that on a preliminary basis, the company expects low-double-digit sales growth and a 13 to 15 percent growth in earnings per diluted share for 2007.

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