New Tiffany & Co team to woo wealthiest jewelry clients

NEW YORK Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:54am EDT

A woman walks past a Tiffany & Co. jewelry store at the Iguatemi mall in Sao Paulo July 29, 2011. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

A woman walks past a Tiffany & Co. jewelry store at the Iguatemi mall in Sao Paulo July 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tiffany & Co is establishing a separate selling unit to cater to wealthy clients around the world who covet its high-end statement jewelry, the company said on Wednesday.

Tiffany gets a small, but growing percentage of its sales from statement jewelry, which the New York retailer defines as one-of-a-kind or few-of-a-kind pieces priced at $50,000 or more.

"We believe there is a big opportunity to grow that higher-end business and that it is important to have a dedicated, proactive selling organization," Mark Aaron, Tiffany's vice president of investor relations told Reuters.

He said the selling team will reach out to affluent shoppers and organize events for them to see the jewelry, from Singapore to Sao Paulo and other major cities.

The new team will be headed by Beth Canavan, who currently leads Tiffany's Americas business. That business will be rolled into the portfolio of Frederic Cumenal, who has been responsible for Tiffany's businesses in Asia, Japan, Europe and Emerging Markets, the company said.

The move comes as luxury's torrid growth, fueled by an emerging middle class in countries such as China and Brazil, is slowing. This week, consulting firm Bain estimated that the global luxury goods market, at constant exchange rates, will grow 4 percent to 6 percent a year between 2013 and 2015.

Typically the ultra-wealthy shoppers do not cut back on luxury spending absent a major shock to stock markets, while middle- and upper-middle-class consumers pull back more quickly.

In addition to its pricier items for which it is famed, Tiffany gets about one-quarter of its sales from relatively inexpensive items such as $135 sterling silver key charms. Some 30 percent of the company's sales come from its engagement and bridal selection.

Tiffany's shares rose 1.2 percent, or 80 cents, to $64.86 in late morning trading.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by; Grant McCool and Maureen Bavdek)