Tiffany & Co. is suffering from America’s retail malaise just like every other retailer.
Mirroring the disappointing first-quarter figures reported by the likes of Express, DSW, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, Tiffany on Wednesday reported declines in earnings and sales for its first quarter this year — and sees further declines ahead.
Tiffany is now forecasting full-year earnings per diluted share in 2016 to decline by a midsingle-digit percentage and diluted EPS in the second quarter to decline by a similar rate (14.8 percent) seen in the first quarter. For the full year, Tiffany projects worldwide net sales declining by a low-single-digit percentage from the prior year.
Last quarter, Tiffany saw weak consumer spending around the world except for Japan. Net earnings for first quarter ended April 30 fell to $87 million, or 69 cents a diluted share, from $105 million, or 81 cents a diluted share, a year ago, while worldwide net sales declined 7 percent to $891 million and comparable store sales fell 9 percent.
The latest earnings included a tax benefit of 5 cents a diluted share related to the settlement of a tax examination. Net earnings were generally in line with management’s previously announced expectations for the first quarter.
“As expected, this was a difficult quarter in terms of both sales and earnings growth. We faced numerous challenges, including continued pressure from foreign tourist spending in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, particularly in Hong Kong,” said Frederic Cumenal, chief executive officer. “We are continuing to take actions that are intended to strengthen sales growth with local customers in the U.S. and around the world. From a strategic perspective, we believe that our initiatives will enhance our ability to provide our customers with extraordinary products and experiences and ultimately contribute to improved financial results. We remain focused on generating sustainable long-term sales and earnings growth.”
Tiffany’s strategy for improved performance revolves around store renovations, including those occurring in San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Vancouver as well as some store relocations; in-store training and new systems to engage with customers better, and introducing new designs across all product categories and price points.
In a conference call, Mark Aaron, vice president of investor relations, said, “The actual 15 percent EPS decline, which included a tax benefit and a 21 percent decline excluding the benefit, were generally in line with our expectations. Most relevant, however, is that despite the persistence of well-known macroeconomic challenges, we are continuing to pursue a number of important strategic initiatives designed to strengthen Tiffany’s position as one of the world’s most important luxury brands.”
Tiffany’s total sales in the Americas declined 9 percent and comparable store sales dropped 10 percent. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales fell 8 percent in the first quarter and comp store sales declined 9 percent. “We attribute the overall lower sales to softness in domestic customer spending in many U.S. markets as well as lower spending by foreign tourists of many nationalities in New York and other high-tourism markets,” Aaron said during the call. “The total sales decline was due to unit-related softness across most jewelry categories.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, total sales dropped 8 percent and comp store sales declined 15 percent in the quarter. On a constant exchange rate basis, total sales declined 5 percent and comp store sales were down 12 percent. In Japan, total sales rose 8 percent and comparable store sales rose 12 percent in the quarter, despite the Japan Department Stores Association reporting this week that its members’ sales to international tourists slid 9.3 percent in April to 17.9 billion yen, or $162.89 million. On a constant exchange rate basis, which excludes the recent dramatic strengthening of the yen, comp store sales rose 5 percent, due to increased spending by local customers. But that growth was mostly offset by lower wholesale sales, resulting in a total sales increase of 1 percent.
Total sales in Europe declined 9 percent and comp sales fell 15 percent in the quarter. On a constant exchange rate basis, total European sales declined 7 percent in the quarter and comp store sales dropped 14 percent.
E-commerce sales, which account for 6 percent of Tiffany’s total sales, rose “slightly” in the first quarter.
Engagement jewelry, wedding bands and fashion jewelry, specifically the Tiffany T and Atlas collections, performed relatively better than statement fine jewelry and solitaire jewelry.
“While we’ve seen lower overall unit volumes in fashion silver jewelry in certain regions, we are pleased with the initial reaction to new silver jewelry pieces that have been added to the Return to Tiffany and Infinity collections to address softness at price points under $500,” Aaron said.
In addition, the recently expanded Victoria collection performed well, but was offset by soft and mixed performances in other collections, the company said.