Why I’m Giving You Something from Tiffany This Year

It looks like upscale shoppers may lead us out of the recession. Tiffany’s sales are up globally. So are sales at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. High-end shoppers are leading the way.

But what is interesting to me is the attraction to these strong brands as the vehicle for higher end spenders. Under the assumption that the wealthy have a great deal of liquidity as they have been hording their cash and not investing in the market, they are apparently spending their money on brands they can trust. Sales for Tiffany in the past quarter were up a currency adjusted +13% and is forecasting this level for the year. Nordstrom’s February same store sales were up over 10%. Bloomingdales and Saks were also up, despite a tough weather month in key markets.

While these numbers encouraging, they should be no surprise. As the times we live in continue to be troubling, and discretionary money is freed up, it is no wonder that it will be spent on well-known names that have built brand equity that assures quality and certainty. So what these brands have been able to do over time is protect themselves, and weather the economic storm we have been passing through. And now as the breezes become a bit fairer, they are becoming the beneficiaries of better times.

Tiffany has been around since 1837. The brand has been able to maintain an extraordinary degree of consistency that has withstood the test of time. This is no easy feat as the brand has had different owners and different leadership teams. But think about what they have accomplished; maintained the foundational charm of the flagship store in New York, artfully designed understated display windows, continually introduced designers with very sophisticated taste for timeless design, consistently used the sophisticated blue box with the silver ribbon, featured only certain kinds of celebrities in their promotion (never the “flash in the pans”), created a retail network that manifests the brand to a large extent around the world, etc. What Tiffany has been able to do is resist complicating its brand. While the business has had ups and downs over the past decade, there has always been a strong hand on the brand tiller. There is enormous strength in this consistency, and other companies should pay attention.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Tiffany’s “statement jewelry, or pieces over $50,000…” saw their first quarterly sales increase in over a year. This is the leading edge. And no, I am not buying you statement jewelry despite my headline.

The lesson is that, as the economy returns, companies that have kept focus on their brands should be the first to prosper. Tiffany should be applauded as one brand leading the way.

Do you agree that there is a “safety” in the Tiffany’s brand? Can you feel the movement at retail yet? Let me know what you are experiencing.