Atmosphere

As Tiffany & Co. looks for traction in the market, not to mention an new chief executive officer, investors are moving away.

Shares of the jeweler fell 8.7 percent to $85 Wednesday after the company posted top- and bottom-line gains in the first quarter, but rattled some nerves with unexpected comparable-store sales declines in its home market.

The jeweler’s net earnings rose 6.2 percent to $92.9 million, or 74 cents a diluted share, from $87.5 million, or 69 cents, a year earlier. Sales increased 0.9 percent to $899.6 million from $891.3 million.

Comparable-store sales were worse than investors had counted on and in the Americas declined 4 percent. Net sales in the region fell 3 percent to $392 million for the quarter.

Global comps fell 3 percent, or a 2 percent drop in constant currencies.

Mark Aaron, vice president of investor relations, told analysts on a conference call that the sales declines in the company’s home market was “primarily due to lower jewelry unit volume.”

“The U.S. experienced geographically mixed but generally soft performance across the country, which we attributed to varying degrees of weakness in both local and foreign tourist demand,” Aaron said.
There were pockets of strength overseas, though.

“Our second-largest region is Asia-Pacific, where an increase in total sales was due to higher wholesale sales and the effect of new store openings over the past year while comps declined slightly,” Aaron said. “The regional sales growth was entirely driven by increased jewelry unit volume, with the decline in the average price per unit sold. We attributed the continuation of strong sales growth in Mainland China to local customers spending.”

Net sales in the Asia-Pacific unit rose 8 percent to $257 million.

The brand, known for its tony pieces in powder blue boxes and white bows, has been doing better at the lower end of its price scale lately.

“From a product perspective in the first quarter, we were pleased with fashion jewelry sales which, once again, performed relatively better than our other categories,” Aaron said. “Fashion jewelry, which represented 33 percent of worldwide sales in 2016, primarily consists of non-gemstone gold and silver jewelry.”

Cowen analyst Oliver Chen said: “We believe the Americas comp is likely volatile given changes in tourism flow, the need for more local customer demand, and the opportunity to drive more customer traffic. Mainland China was strong; however, we think Hong Kong & Macau likely remain opportunities.”

The analyst said he continued to “appreciate the company’s focus on product, stores, and marketing—which are necessary efforts to drive more sustainable growth and inventory and capital allocation.”

Tiffany continues to be in serious flux, having brought on Reed Krakoff as chief artistic officer and ousted Frederic Cumenal as ceo.

Michael Kowalski, chairman and interim ceo, said: “While these results modestly exceeded our near-term expectations, we are focused on executing long-term strategies to achieve stronger and sustainable performance through product introductions, optimization of our store base, effective marketing communications and the delivery of experiences that resonate with our customers. In so doing, we believe Tiffany & Co. is well-positioned to generate an attractive total shareholder return over the long-term.”

The company stood by its full year guidance, calling for sales to increase by a percentage in the low-single digits.

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