Conceding the difficulty of supporting a secondary concept in a challenging economic environment, Tiffany & Co. said Tuesday that it will shutter its 16-store Iridesse division.

This story first appeared in the March 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Tiffany launched the chain, which traded mainly in pearl jewelry, in 2004. Mark Aaron, vice president of investor relations, said the stores were losing money and that it was difficult to operate them in the current “tough” retail climate.

“We thought that it might have been viable in a different environment,” he said.

Aaron said the company will close the Iridesse locations after negotiating lease arrangements with landlords and selling off inventory.

The company did not yet know how many jobs the closings would eliminate.

“We hope to be able to place at least some of the employees within the Tiffany organization, but that remains to be seen,” Aaron said.

In December the jewelry retailer, which operates 206 Tiffany units in 21 countries including 76 in the U.S., offered “voluntary retirement incentives” to about 800 U.S. employees, or 13.3 percent of its domestic workforce. Aaron said more people took advantage of the program than expected, which meant there might be more room to absorb former Iridesse employees.