SAN FRANCISCO — “At the epicenter of the tech innovation, it may seem quaint for Tiffany to talk about luxury’s place in a digital future,” Tiffany & Co. chief executive officer Frederic Cumenal said Monday, admitting that the brand sells nothing that plugs into a charger.
But just days before the retailer’s earnings call and at a time when its share price has fallen sharply over the last year, Cumenal emphasized the brand’s positioning as a respite from the hyperactive, quickly changing and plugged in ethos of late, saying that Tiffany makes a point to celebrate the absence of change. Examples include the introduction of a watch that does nothing but tell time and an engagement ring that hasn’t changed since 1886. He said it’s this consistency that attracts the customer. “We pine for what is lasting and find meaning not in what changes, but in what doesn’t,” he said; even Apple founder Steve Jobs, he said, allowed a Tiffany floor lamp into his otherwise spartan residence.
Still, speaking here at the FT Business of Luxury summit, Cumenal conceded, “We cannot rest on the pillar of our heritage — Tiffany is always reaching around the next corner.” (He highlighted a same-sex couple in a Tiffany ad campaign six months before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)
But he also nodded to the value of technology, saying he recognized that it was about more than robots and gadgets and offered a way to better reach customers. Tiffany has an app that allows users to virtually try on engagement rings and its Snapchat icon, fittingly, boasts diamond facets. It also has a major following on Facebook and Instagram.
Finally, Cumenal clarified that Tiffany is not averse to change, but rather that although it has “one DNA,” that DNA can evolve over time.
“The future of luxury is as bright as it ever as has been. It’s not a paradox, but a symbiosis, between luxury and tech.” And, he added, “I like to think there is a thing or two that tech can learn from us.”