Sales and profits up at Tiffany

Tiffany & Co. posted a 24% increase in profits in its fourth quarter, helped by robust growth in the United States as well as gains in most international markets.

The New York-based jewelry retailer said on Wednesday that it earned $110.5 million in the three months ended Jan. 31. That compares with $89.3 million in the year-ago period.

Worldwide sales rose 18% to $731.59 million, compared with $619.01 million in the year-ago period.

Excluding the effects of foreign-currency translations, worldwide net sales in the fourth quarter increased 14% and sales at stores opened at least a year, known as same-store sales, rose 10%.

“We are pleased and encouraged to be concluding 2003 on a healthy note in most areas of our business,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and chief executive. “Tiffany has maintained its long-term commitment to selective expansion and offering extraordinary products.”

U.S. retail sales rose 20% to $359.42 million. On a same-store sales basis, sales in the quarter rose 17 percent — up 22 percent at Tiffany’s New York flagship store and 15% in branch stores.

Sales at its international retail stores rose 18% to $273.53 million in the fourth quarter. On a constant-exchange rate basis, international retail sales increased 7%.

Direct marketing sales increased 11% in the fourth quarter to $76.86 million.

Specialty retail sales increased 8% to $21.78 million in the fourth quarter.

For the year, earnings were up 13% to $215.5 million compared with $189.9 million, or $1.28 per share in the year-ago period. Sales reached $2 billion, up from $1.71 billion in the year-ago period.