TIFFANY FEELS DOMESTIC ECONOMY PINCH

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Tiffany & Co., which opened much-anticipated new store on Broad Street in November, saw sales in its American stores that had been open a year or more dip 2 percent in the November-December period, the jeweler announced late last week.

The New York Times called it “a sign that a pullback in consumer spending that started at the low end of American retailing is percolating up to high-end merchants.”

From the Times account:

The slowdown was unexpected, and it sent jitters through the world of luxury-goods makers, who had seemed invulnerable over the last five years, even as energy prices surged and the housing market began to sputter.

The Tiffany results were among the clearest evidence yet that wealthy consumers — and middle-class shoppers who sometimes splurge on luxury items — are starting to tighten their purse strings.

Worldwide, sales in the period were up 8 percent, to $867.3 million. And the comany’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan posted a 10-percent gain. But that was driven, the company reported, by tourists, many of them from overseas.

“We believe a recent pullback in U.S. spending likely reflected a more cautious attitude among customers about the near-term direction of the economy and related factors,” Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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