Tiffany's 'old-world luxury' fails to charm millennials

Thu May 26, 2016 4:24pm EDT
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By Subrat Patnaik and Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) - For Alan Feid, a 28-year-old looking to buy an engagement ring for his fiancée, the rings he found in the diamond district in Manhattan were just as good as the ones he saw at Tiffany & Co's (TIF.N: Quote) flagship store on Fifth Avenue. And they cost less than half the price.

"At the end of the day, I don't think there's much of a difference when it comes to the style or the quality," said Feid, a resident of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Tiffany's jewelry, long considered a status symbol, has been patronized by Hollywood A-listers and the political elite, and coveted by well-to-do baby boomers who made the brand synonymous with weddings and anniversaries.

But for millennials, increasingly unmoved by brand names and seeking more bang for their buck, Tiffany's "old-world luxury" charm isn't working, said Neil Saunders, chief executive of retail research firm Conlumino.

The company's problems are shared by department-store operators such as Macy's Inc (M.N: Quote), whose customers are switching to off-price retailers like TJX Cos Inc (TJX.N: Quote), where they get similar apparel for much less.

This growing demographic of high-earning but not-yet-rich millennials - with annual salaries of $100,000-$250,000 - are spending more on brands that offer them a more contemporary look or on jewelry made by niche designers.

The rise of online shopping has also exposed these tech-savvy shoppers to a broader array of smaller brands, and conditioned them to wait for deals.

The effect of these trends are being reflected in the century-old retailer's sales, which have fallen for six straight quarters. The company reported on Wednesday its biggest drop in quarterly sales since 2009.   Continued...

The Tiffany & Co. logo is seen on an awning of their store in Manhasset, New York, U.S., May 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton