Despite strong growth in China, Tiffany & Co.’s sales slipped over the holidays.
The high-end jeweler said global net sales fell 1 percent to $1.04 billion for November and December combined. Comparable sales declined 2 percent. Adjusting for currency fluctuations, both net sales and comps were flat.
Alessandro Bogliolo, chief executive officer said: “With continued strong sales growth in mainland China (by a double-digit percentage), solid results in Japan and healthy growth in global e-commerce sales, overall holiday sales results came in short of our expectations which had called for modest year-over-year growth. We attribute the difference partly to lower sales to foreign (primarily Chinese) tourists globally, and to softening demand attributed to local customers in the Americas and Europe, which we believe may have been influenced more than expected by external events, uncertainties and market volatilities.”
The company has been investing to expand its brand and Bogliolo said progress was being made in amplifying the brand message, renewing product offerings and other key areas.
“We acknowledge that external pressures, difficult year-over-year sales comparisons and annualized internal spending are expected to have some negative effects on fiscal 2019 results, mostly in the first half of the year, but we believe that Tiffany is on a solid path for improved sales, margins, earnings and cash flow generation over the long-term,” the ceo said.
This year, the company said net sales would rise 6 to 7 percent and that earnings per diluted share would hit the lower end of its previous forecast, which called for profits of $4.65 to $4.80.
In an interview with WWD Friday morning, Bogliolo said while the dynamic with Chinese consumers hasn’t change — they’re spending more at home, but less as they travel — high-end U.S. shoppers have started to pull back some.
The ceo said the positive U.S. spending trend from earlier in the year didn’t hold up through the holidays and attributed at least part of the weakness on “uncertainty” in the market and elsewhere that weighed on consumer psychology.
The U.S. dollar is also strong, making it more expensive for all tourists, not just travels from China, to spend.
While Bogliolo remains confident in the company and its trajectory, he’s clearly aware of the chances of a broader economic slowdown and will be looking for efficiencies to drive profits if sales slow.
“Looking forward, we have issued a preliminary for 2019 where we expect growth, but in the low-single-digits in sales, while operationally, we want to improve our efficiencies so we expect midsingle-digit growth in earnings.”