Tiffany & Co. Held Discussions With Apple, CEO Says

Tiffany Co. engaged in discussions with top Apple executives a few months back, CEO Frédéric Cumenal said during a discussion of smartwatches at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference on Sept. 10.

“We had a discussion a few months ago with some of the top executives at Apple,” Cumenal said, without elaborating. A Tiffany spokesperson declined to offer any further details. An Apple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. In August, New York’s London Jewelers began selling the 18k gold Edition, the highest-end model of the Apple Watch, making it the only U.S. jeweler to do so.

Cumenal added that initiatives like the Apple Watch may boost the overall category, as they reintroduce young people to timepieces.

“Looking at the young generation, the 20- to 25-year-olds, a lot of them are not wearing watches anymore,” he said. “I believe it is a great opportunity for us to leverage on those [initiatives] and bring attention back to the wrist.”

Whatever happens with smartwatches, Cumenal seemed bullish on the company’s new watch line, saying that early results have been good. But the company will change its marketing to zero in on male buyers. 

“We don’t have a solid relationship with men,” he said. “They are critical in the watch-buying decision. Even if it’s a watch for ladies, it is very important to have some endorsement for men.

“We are in the watch business for the long run,” he added. “But it will take years.” 

Cumenal also addressed the following: 

– Despite the relative strength of the U.S. economy, Tiffany has found purchasing inconsistent, though sales are increasing. He added that the second half of the year in the U.S. is shaping up better than the first. 

– The company is taking a hard look at its store portfolio, with some relocations and closings.  

“We are going to make some drastic decisions on store closings,” he said. “This year, we already closed two, which is not a lot but significant.”

– It is redesigning some stores to give them a “much cleaner, better, much warmer environment” and is stressing warmth in store interactions, too.

“We want [sales associates] to be stronger in storytelling, having a better ability to deliver messages about our heritage,” he added. “We want to reinforce the warmth of the brand, which is a key differentiator in the luxury world, which tends to be a little bit colder.”

He added the company is now stressing clienteling.

“In the U.S. we were kind of a transaction-driven luxury company,” he said. “Maybe our sales associates tended to be a little bit passive and transaction oriented [as opposed to] establishing a great relationship with customers and clients, and better knowing them, better understanding what those people are about, and what they are after.”

– It also wants to better understand who shops there. 

“We were nowhere a few years ago,” he said. “It will take years, but every month it is better and better.”

– It doesn’t take the knowledge of the U.S. consumer for granted.

“Because the U.S. consumer has a long-lasting relationship with us, from time to time we [have mistakenly thought] that U.S. consumers know our heritage, that they know our origin,” he said. “We realize it is not always the case.” 

– He sees an opportunity in colored stones.

“We have an opportunity to bring our own spin and our own twist to the world of colored stones,” he said. “But we would only do that with a very strong respect to our CSR [corporate social responsibility] policy. Some of the colored stones are quite difficult to find under good conditions—and by good conditions I mean, being sure that everything is done property, in terms of labor, social, and the environment. Therefore, that has prevented us [from doing] big, big things. But we are working on a few collections and programs to reinforce the presence of colored stones—not with a classic approach, but to bring our own twist.”

– It is developing unique product to counter sagging sales of its signature silver.

“Consumers need to be excited even at [entry-level price points],” he said. “We were not offering any elevated designs. It was just a simple piece of silver. We believe that, as Tiffany, we cannot limit our interaction with those consumers to [a] limited offering.”

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