Wall Street is standing by Tiffany & Co., looking past a fourth-quarter sales slowdown to the promise of some more sparkle later this year.
Shares of the jeweler rose 3.2 percent to $103.21 after it turned in 2018 results Friday that showed a late-year slowdown in sales as tourists and U.S. consumers pulled back. Fourth-quarter comparable sales slid 1 percent.
Alessandro Bogliolo, chief executive officer, told WWD 2018 was a strong year overall, but he would prefer it to be “less volatile.”
“If you look at the stock market in 2018, the first part of the year was amazing — and [helped Tiffany produce] amazing growth, so the sense of wealth was definitely there — and all those gains were lost in November and December,” Bogliolo said.
While U.S. shoppers were more cautious, tourists from both China and elsewhere were impacted by the strong dollar and pulled back. (Although the ceo said Chinese shoppers are still keen on the brand, but are just buying it at home).
Tiffany’s fourth-quarter net profits tallied $204.5 million, up from $61.9 million a year earlier, when tax code changes led to a $146 million charge to the bottom line. Net sales slipped slightly, to $1.32 billion from $1.33 billion.
Despite that weakness over the key holiday season, sales last year increased 6.5 percent to a record high of $4.44 billion as Bogliolo’s strategic plan began to take hold, and Tiffany guided investors toward a low-single digit sales increase this year.
First-half earnings are projected to decline as sales are pressured, but the short fall is expected to be made up in the second half producing a midsingle digit earnings increase for the year, per diluted share.
Bogliolo, who joined the company in October 2017, is steering the brand into the future with a six-point plan that includes:
• An evolved brand message.
• Renewed product offerings.
• An omnichannel experience.
• A sharper, competitive profile.
• More efficient operations.
• An aligned and agile organization.
The ceo said this year would be “very active and promising” for the second priority, with lots of product innovation, including new engagement rings and new whimsical collections and a focus on younger shoppers.
But as Tiffany seeks to bring in more customers, it is also seeking to elevate its positioning.
“We’re trying to bring innovation in all the different portions of our assortment, but in each of them bring a newness that is more elevated and also slightly more expensive,” Bogliolo said.
Tiffany ended the year with cash and short-term investments of $855 million and total debt of $997 billion — a strong financial positioning, especially considering the firm’s profits.
“The company finally is very strong and I think this is important to keep it” that way, he said. “In our industry, there are cycles. A strong balance sheet is very important.”
In other words, don’t look for Tiffany to make a big acquisition, although the ceo did leave open the possibility should something irresistible come up.
“The focus is on our [current] business because I think there is such support for this brand and there is so much to do,” he said. “There is plenty of potential growth for Tiffany.”