Tiffany reopens flagship New York store under French management

Agence France Presse

Posted at Apr 27 2023 08:09 AM

NEW YORK, United States - New Yorkers and tourists will once again stroll between the rings and diamonds of jeweler Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue, which officially reopened for business Wednesday after extensive renovations under new owners, French luxury giant LVMH.

The iconic Manhattan jewelry store -- immortalized by the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" -- reopened its doors following the remodelling, which the luxury jeweler hopes will help fuel the brand's momentum under its new ownership.

It took "a bit longer than what we had in mind," Tiffany CEO Anthony Ledru said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, two days before the store reopens to the public.

But the result "goes well beyond our wildest dreams," he said.

The renovation of the Manhattan landmark began under previous management in 2019, and continued after Tiffany's takeover by LVMH.

The goal of the makeover, Ledru told AFP by email ahead of the reopening, is to offer "a unique client experience," with a blend of "art, craftsmanship, heritage and lifestyle."

Tiffany is looking to stay true to its origins while remaining culturally "relevant," and the company wants to make the brand "approachable to all generations," he said.

Beyonce and Nike

Tiffany was founded in New York in 1837, and has become best known for its diamonds, silver jewelry and engagement rings sold in the brand's iconic robin's egg blue boxes.

The company, which employs 14,000 people and operates some 300 retail outlets worldwide, was acquired by LVMH in early 2021 for just under $16 billion.

At LVMH's annual earnings presentation in January, CEO Bernard Arnault noted Tiffany was on track to "exceed $1 billion in current operating income" this year.

"We were barely halfway there when we acquired this business," he said.

With help from Arnault's son, Alexandre, Ledru has embarked on a refresh of the brand, calling on America's hottest show business couple Jay-Z and Beyonce to promote its products, and launching a campaign around the provocative slogan, "Not your mother's Tiffany."

The brand has also forged a partnership with US footwear giant Nike to go along with the revamp.

"Tiffany was a sleeping beauty," says Erwan Rambourg, a specialist in the luxury sector at HSBC.

The company long relied on a "very strong reputation," but was also "very conservative in its choices, very slow and quite obsessed with the short term" to satisfy shareholders, he told AFP.

The new management, spurred on by "the spirit of conquest specific to Bernard Arnault," repositioned the image of the brand by putting less emphasis on products related to marriage and silver jewelry and by raising some prices, he said.

"When it was managed by American executives, there was a huge emphasis in communication on entry price, which is not a good approach" to take in luxury, according to Luca Solca of Bernstein, saying it is more prudent for such brands to focus on high-end products.

The current management's marketing and communication strategy are "more modern," which is necessary "to recruit younger consumers," he said.

Recognizable jewelry

The jeweler has also launched a range of new products such as the "T by Tiffany" ring and, more recently, its "Lock" line of bracelets.

"It is quite difficult to put a big logo on a ring, a bracelet or a pendant, but the shape of some so-called iconic products can, at 20 meters in a restaurant or a bar, identify that it is a Tiffany, Cartier or Van Cleef jewel," Rambourg said.

The group has also developed a new approach for its stores, opting for a "more feminine, warm and welcoming" concept, he added.

The renovation of the New York store began under previous management in 2019, and continued after Tiffany's takeover by LVMH.

It represents the largest investment ever made in the luxury world for an operation of this nature, according to a person close to Arnault.

In addition to the refresh of the sales counters, the Manhattan store's 10 floors will include several exhibition spaces, a cafe run by French chef Daniel Boulud and a VIP area.

Before the renovation -- during which customers could visit a temporary location next door -- the store accounted for around 10 percent of Tiffany's sales.

Ledru would not commit to a specific sales target post-renovation, but said the group has "set the bar high for business expectations," and that it anticipates "millions of visitors from all over the world" would set foot in the new Tiffany store each year.