Tiffany targets young shoppers

Tiffany & Co has hired model Pyper America Smith to front its campaign.
Tiffany & Co has hired model Pyper America Smith to front its campaign. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ TIFFANY & CO

NEW YORK • One part wealthy tourists, one part grooms-to-be: That simple alchemy has long been Tiffany & Co's business model, but it has not worked that well of late.

So Tiffany has turned to the bright, young things.

In late July, Tiffany launched a Snapchat filter in concert with a new line of jewellery and a social media campaign tagged #lovenotlike.

"We live in a social culture of 'like', but for Tiffany & Co, 'like' is not enough," Ms Diana Hong, the company's vice-president of digital marketing, said at the time.

The pieces are affordable(ish). Mostly silver and largely diamond-free, they range from US$75 (S$102) to US$12,500, though the majority can be had for less than US$1,000.

They are also a little bit punk, the predominant style being little hearts fashioned as military dog tags.

Last Thursday morning, Tiffany said it is expanding its offerings under US$500 by a double-digit percentage. Its Web store now offers easy navigation to pieces "under $500" and "under $250".

Meanwhile, Tiffany has hired three of fashion's It girls to carry the campaign - Imaan Hammam, Fernanda Ly and Pyper America Smith.

A Tiffany advertisement spot features Smith coming out of a train station and hopping on a skateboard.

There is no cloying piano music, no genuflecting, no talk of "eternity" - none of this schmaltzy stuff. You can almost hear Audrey Hepburn's mousy declaration from the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany's: "We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us."

Investors seem keen on the shift away from romance. Tiffany shares spiked by almost 8 per cent  last Thursday on what was, by most accounts, a fairly humdrum earnings report.

The company beat analysts' profit estimates, but mostly by keeping costs in check. Revenue fell by 5.9 per cent to US$931.6 million and sales at stores that had been open for more than a year swooned by 9 per cent.

A strengthening dollar has weighed heavily on the company, but the results were drab even after currency effects were stripped out. 

Sales of the company's engagement rings were down and demand was soft for its "statement" jewellery, namely stone-studded cuff bracelets and bib necklaces that look heavy enough to drown the company's new target demographic.

The challenge is that the young have never been Tiffany's strong suit. Web sales still account for only 6 per cent of revenue, a figure that did not budge in the past year.

And while love is timeless, fashion can be fleeting, particularly when it come to young trendsetters. One day they are skateboarding to your store, the next they are running away to Brazil.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline 'Tiffany targets young shoppers'. Print Edition | Subscribe