Tiffany &Co. said Tuesday that worldwide net sales increased 9% year-over-year to $895 million for the first quarter of 2013. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, which excludes foreign currency fluctuations, worldwide net sales increased 13% and comparable store sales rose 8%.
Sales growth was seen in all regions for the international luxury retailer and would have been even stronger if it was not for the unusually weak Japanese yen.
Net earnings increased 3% to $84 million, or $0.65 per diluted share. Expenses of $9 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, were recorded in the quarter for recent staff and occupancy reductions; excluding those costs, net earnings increased 10% to $89 million, or $0.70 per diluted share.
In addition, the company maintained its fiscal 2013 forecast of net earnings in a range of $3.43-$3.53 per diluted share. The New York-based company expects that worldwide net sales will increase by a mid-single-digit percentage in U.S dollars and a high-single-digit percentage increase on a constant-exchange-rate basis.
"First quarter sales exceeded our expectations, enabling us to improve our sales leverage on fixed expenses and achieve earnings growth, said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO. “In addition, we celebrated Tiffany's 175th anniversary with our very successful Blue Book event and promotional activities surrounding the debut of the film The Great Gatsby, for which we designed the jewelry."
Kowalski added, "We are maintaining our earnings forecast for the full year, mindful of continuing soft sales results in the Americas and the negative translation effect of a weaker yen…. Tiffany's global store base is growing this year with a planned net addition of 14 stores, and we will be launching our redesigned website later this year."
Net sales by region are as follows:
* In the Americas, total sales rose 6% to $408 million. Comparable store sales rose 3% with relatively stronger growth in the New York flagship store. Sales in New York was aided from purchases by customers who attended the Blue Book event.
* In the Asia-Pacific region, total sales increased 15% to $223 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 14%, due to sales growth in Greater China and most other countries. Comparable store sales rose 9%.
* Sales in Japan increased 2% to $145 million despite a negative translation effect from a weakening yen. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 20% and comparable store sales rose 21% due to particularly strong growth in Tiffany's engagement and higher-end jewelry categories.
* In Europe, total sales increased 6% to $93 million due to sales growth across continental Europe. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales and comparable store sales rose 8% and 6% respectively.
*Other sales tripled to $27 million from $9 million in the prior year, primarily reflecting the conversion in July 2012 of five Tiffany stores in the United Arab Emirates from independently-operated to company-operated.
In the first quarter, Tiffany opened one store, in Xi'an, China and closed one in Taichung, Taiwan. The Company currently operates approximately 275 stores (115 in the Americas, 66 in Asia-Pacific, 55 in Japan, 34 in Europe and five in the U.A.E.), compared with 251 stores (105 in the Americas, 59 in Asia-Pacific, 55 in Japan and 32 in Europe) a year ago.
Tiffany said it plans to add a net of 14 company-operated stores (opening six in the Americas, seven in Asia-Pacific and three in Europe, and closing one each in Japan and Taiwan), as well as refurbishing a number of existing locations around the world.
Gross margin (gross profit as a percentage of net sales) was 56.2% versus last year's 57.3%. The company said this was expected as it reflects a shift in sales mix toward higher-priced, lower gross margin products.
Selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) increased 8% in the quarter due to $9 million of expenses tied to cost reduction initiatives related to staffing reductions, as well as subleasing of office space at a loss, the company said. Excluding those costs, SG&A expenses would have increased 6% due to new store-related costs and higher marketing spending for the Blue Book event.
Net inventories were $2.3 billion at April 30, 2013, or 4% higher than a year ago, the company said. A 12% increase in finished goods inventories to support new store openings and expanded product assortments was partly offset by a 5% decline in combined raw material and work-in-process inventories. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, net inventories were 7% higher than a year ago.