Tiffany & Co.'s CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Tiffany & Co. (TIF)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 20, 2012 8:30 am ET


Mark L. Aaron - Vice President of Investor Relations

Patrick F. McGuiness - Chief Financial officer and Senior Vice President

Michael J. Kowalski - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Member of Management Board, Member of Corporate Social Responsibility Committee and Member of Dividend Committee



Good day, everyone, and welcome to this Tiffany & Co. Fourth Quarter Conference Call. Today's conference is being recorded. Participating on today's call will be Mr. Mike Kowalski, Chairman and CEO; Mr. Pat McGuiness, Senior VP and CFO; and Mr. Mark Aaron, Vice President of Investor Relations. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Aaron. Please go ahead.

Mark L. Aaron

Good day, everyone, and thank you for joining us on this call. Pat McGuiness and I will review fourth quarter and full year results as well as the company's outlook for 2012, and then Mike Kowalski will wrap up the call with some remarks.

Before we continue, please note Tiffany's Safe Harbor provision that statements made on this call that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements. Actual results might differ materially from the expectations projected in those forward-looking statements. Additional information concerning risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially is set forth in Tiffany's 2010 annual report on Form 10-K and in other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

Now let's proceed. One year ago, we reported broad-based strong financial results for fiscal 2010 with sales up 14% and net earnings from continuing operations up 39%. We are now pleased to also report strong performance for fiscal 2011, with net sales up 18%, net earnings up 19% to $3.40 per diluted share and net earnings excluding nonrecurring items up 24% to $3.60 per diluted share.

At the same time, we are disappointed that the year finished on a softer note than we initially expected, with fourth quarter sales up 8%, net earnings down 2% and net earnings excluding nonrecurring items down 4%, but that does not diminish our satisfaction from achieving another successful year. And it's worth noting that the $3.60 per diluted share of earnings in 2011 excluding nonrecurring items was above the initial guidance we provided to you one year ago that called for $3.35 to $3.45 per diluted share.

Let's first review some key sales highlights by region for the fourth quarter and full year. Sales in the Americas increased 5% in the fourth quarter, with comp store sales up 3% on top of an 8% comp increase last year. This was a slight improvement from the 4% increase in November, December holiday sales that we had previously reported. The 5% sales increase in the fourth quarter was due to an increase in the average price per unit sold. In fact, while price stratification for the Americas in the fourth quarter indicated continued declines in sales and transactions below $250, it was more than offset by sales growth in most of the higher-priced categories. It was a pretty similar dichotomy for the full year, with the greatest strength in sales over $20,000 and $50,000.

We believe that the slower sales growth in the Americas in the fourth quarter might have been in varying degrees due to restrained spending by customers employed in the financial sector, which especially affected our sales in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., substantial competitive discounting and particular softness at our entry-level silver jewelry price points that might be tied to some resistance to price increases among other factors.

Sales in the New York flagship store rose 2% in the quarter, which was a bit better than the 1% decline in the holiday period. The 2% increase was due to higher sales to foreign tourists. The overall Americas region also benefited from higher sales to foreign tourists but also saw increased sales to local customers. Comp store sales in branch stores rose 3%, with growth somewhat skewed toward the western half of the region, which includes continued strong growth in Hawaii and Guam, driven by Japanese tourists. Our stores in Canada and Latin America posted solid sales growth in the quarter.

For the full year, sales in the Americas rose 15% due to an overall increase in the average price per unit sold. Growth in jewelry units sold at higher price points was offset by declines in the silver jewelry category. The Americas region represented 50% of worldwide sales versus 51% in 2010. Americas comps rose 13% in the full year. Sales in the New York flagship store rose 20% in 2011 and remained at 8% of worldwide sales.

In 2011, more than 40% of sales made in the New York flagship store were to foreign tourists versus somewhat less than 40% in 2010. Americas branch store comps rose 11% in 2011 on a constant exchange rate basis due to strong increases in most parts of the U.S. as well as in Canada and Latin America.

I mentioned that higher foreign tourist spending generated a good portion of the fourth quarter sales growth in the U.S. That reason also applied to the full year. In fact, full year sales to foreign tourists represented an estimated 23% of U.S. sales in 2011 versus 17% and 15% in 2010 and 2009. European, Japanese and Chinese tourists represented roughly similar amounts of that spending in 2011.

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