Tiffany posts a sharp increase in quarterly profits

Tiffany & Co. Inc. on Wednesday said quarterly profit rose sharply as its wealthy clientele spent more on the company’s signature luxury jewelry, Reuters reports.

Tiffany said that while uncertainty caused by factors such as the SARS outbreak continues, it is on track to meet its targets for earnings and sales growth this year.

Tiffany said it is seeing increased demand for jewelry in the $50,000-and-over category.

The New York company posted net earnings of $35.9 million for the fiscal first quarter ended April 30. A year earlier it earned $32.7 million.

Net sales rose 14% to $395.8 million. Sales at stores open at least a year increased 0.4%.

Tiffany said international sales climbed 12% in the first quarter to $165.5 million, Reuters reports. Three-quarters of the increase was due to the strength of foreign currencies against the dollar. The weak dollar makes U.S. goods less expensive overseas.

In response to inquiries about whether Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome would affect its sales, Tiffany reportedly said same-store sales in Hong Kong fell 9% in April but were up 1% for the first quarter as a whole.

Tiffany said sales in U.S. stores climbed 5% in the first quarter to $173.6 million, with comparable-store sales up 2%. Sales at the company’s flagship store in New York fell 5%.

The company reportedly said it is introducing band rings with gemstones, which it expects will do especially well in Japan, one of its key international markets. It also plans to bring out new tableware to coincide with the fall launch of a tableware floor in the New York flagship store.

For the year, Tiffany reportedly said it expects a low-teens percentage increase in net sales, including mid-single-digit comparable-store sales increases in the United States and Japan.