Its shares rose a bit to an all-time high, thanks to its strong fourth-quarter report. But the company is crediting some of that performance to a surprising segment of items that most of us wouldn't associate with that brand -- and that you also might never consider buying.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Jan. 17, 2018.
Chris Hill: You can add Tiffany to the list of companies that had a good holiday. Overall increase in sales over the holidays was 8%, and same-store sales were up 5%, and shares of Tiffany up not a huge amount today, but they're up just enough that Tiffany is hitting a new high. New all-time high today for Tiffany. Well done!
Bill Barker: Yes.
Hill: Did you spend any money there?
Barker: I did not. I have at some occasions in the past, but what they have for sale at the moment is not as much of interest to me as the stuff that's getting the headlines.
Hill: You mentioned the headlines. Here's what I think is interesting. People think of Tiffany, they automatically and rightly think of the jewelry business and the little blue box and all of that branding. But the company is giving a decent amount of the credit for their holiday sales to a new collection of items for the home, accessories, that sort of thing, which include, among other things, a ruler, a silver ruler, that costs $450. And as far as I can tell, it does everything that a wooden ruler does, which is to say, it just measures things up to a very short distance. The difference being, a wooden ruler doesn't cost $450. And somehow, Tiffany is getting people to buy these things.
Barker: Yes. That and, a number of the other household, whatever it is, Everyday Objects. The one that got the most humorous attention was the $9,000 silver ball of yarn, which, in fact, does none of the things that an actual ball of yarn does, except exist in silver form, which is very, very hard to knit with.
Hill: You mentioned this to me earlier, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. How big is the ball of yarn, and what does it do? You're showing me a picture, which is of little consequence to the people listening, but this appears to be an average sized ball of yarn, but it's just made out of silver.
Hill: And that's it. I'm putting this on my mantle so that people who come over ...
Barker: Understand that I have that kind of money to throw away uselessly.
Hill: I have stupid money.
Barker: Yes, that's what it says. That's what you're saying to the people who come into your house. Do you have $9,000 to throw away on a useless silver ball of yarn?
Hill: I could have lit this money on fire. Instead, I did the next best thing -- I spent it on a $9,000 silver ball of yarn.
Barker: And it's not just a silver ball of yarn. There are lots of these everyday objects that you can flaunt your disposable income at people with. There's all sorts of things.
Hill: This reminded me of, you have talked before about your affinity for Bob Newhart, the tremendous comedian. Younger people will know him as Papa Elf in the movie Elf. People of our generation and older will know him from two highly successful television sitcoms. The $450 ruler reminded me of an episode of the first Bob Newhart show that, from a plot standpoint, is the only episode that I remember. I'm curious if you remember this. It's where Bob's wife buys him an expensive watch for his birthday. Do you remember this episode?
Barker: I don't.
Hill: For whatever reason, this is the episode that stuck with me, and I think it's because I identified with how Bob was feeling when he got this. It's his birthday, he doesn't like a big deal made about his birthday. His wife buys him a very expensive watch. He has a perfectly serviceable watch on his wrist. His wife buys him this expensive watch. And I think this is the first scene in the show. Then he goes to work, and he's chatting with Jerry the dentist, who's part of the office complex, because Bob is a psychiatrist. Right?
Hill: And I forget the brand name, let's just say the expensive brand name is Barker, and Jerry is like, 'That's a Barker watch! That's amazing!" And Bob is like, "Yeah, it's really nice." And Jerry is like, "You don't understand. That's a Barker watch." And Bob is like, "Do you think she spent $100 on it?" And by the way, this episode takes place in 1973, so a $100 watch in 1973 is a healthily expensive watch. And Jerry is like, "Are you kidding me? That thing costs $1,300," and Bob almost passes out. And then when he goes back home at the end of the day, his wife is like, "Where's the watch?" And he's so terrified that he has a $1,300 watch around his wrist that he has not only taken it off his wrist, he has put it in a smaller box and put that box inside his briefcase, which is locked. And the line that I remember he says to his wife is, he's trying to say to her, "Can I return this? Can you take this back?" He says, "This watch does everything that my old watch does, but my old watch costs $10, I don't know why I need this." And that's what I thought of with the $450 ruler. There's a wooden ruler that I have in my house right now that does everything that this thing does.
Barker: Sure. But do you have a silver ball of yarn? Or a silver bird's nest for $10,000?
Hill: Are they selling that, too?
Hill: A bird's nest?
Barker: Yeah. You need one of those. If you find a bird's nest outside and bring it into the house, that's disgusting. Why would you do that? Your children could catch something. Put it back outside and replace it with something in silver. Just take out a loan to buy this $10,000 bird's nest. I'm going to reveal what I think is going on here. Because usually, when you mock something --
Hill: That's fine, because no one's listening.
Barker: When you and I mock something like Oreo flavors, they've gone out of control, or the candles at Bath & Body Works, and then somebody sends you one.
Hill: Nobody is sending --
Barker: I know that. I'm revealing that information to you. Like, "Oh, maybe someone will send me one of these rulers for $450."
Hill: Please don't. And no one would. No one would do that.
Barker: Your mockery of this is not intended to get you something?
Hill: No, it is not. Let's close on this --
Barker: You're smarter than I thought.
Hill: I was unaware of the $10,000 nest. Look, we have two items. And once you have stupid money, and you're going to spend stupid money on something insanely dumb like a silver ball of yarn or a silver nest -- which one do you think they do? The price difference is $1,000. So, do I spend $9,000 on the ball of yarn? Do I spend $10,000 on the nest? Which one do you think would get less ridicule? You have people coming over to your house, and you have this on your mantle, which one do you think makes people go, "Oh, that's interesting!" Or, would people walk away and say, "That's nuts!"
Barker: I think the nest is more interesting. It works better as art. It has little Tiffany robin's eggs, blue eggs in it. I don't know what they're made of, they're not made out of silver, they're made out of stone, I guess. I think as a piece of art, it works better than the ball of yarn, which is like a Monopoly piece.
Hill: I was going to say, if you shrunk it, it would look like a Monopoly piece.
Hill: You can read more from Bill Barker and his colleagues, for the three people still listening, go to foolfunds.com and check out with the Motley Fool Asset Management folks are working on. It's great stuff, and it's not a $450 ruler. It's the opposite of that.
Barker: Do you know what else is working for them, just to get a little actual business analysis here?
Hill: Now that I'm doing the wrap up?
Barker: Well, yeah. You went so far off topic with the Bob Newhart thing, I thought there would still be time to talk about their earnings report.
Hill: By all means.
Barker: Part [of] what helped here, and I only bring this up because I think it's going to be a theme that will come up at times over the quarter as earnings season really kicks in is, the weak dollar was a big help. It was an especially big help for Tiffany, because you have people coming in and shopping in the U.S. a lot of the time, and they want to, if they have a strong currency, Tiffany is sort of a destination shopping spot for them, especially the global flagship one in New York, which has had some problems with protesters outside of Trump Tower interfering with people getting in and out of Tiffany in a way that they wanted to.
At any rate, you have a lot of foreign money that makes a lot of these purchases, and that one unit delivers a lot -- I can't remember what the percentage is, I'm going to say it's like 10% or 20% of the entire global sales. And when you have a weak dollar, this stuff, this is very discretionary purchases, a lot of the Tiffany stuff, the Everyday Objects, underlines to enormous degrees. You just don't buy things like this at times when money is tight. So, they're going to benefit, they did benefit, to about 2%. If you take out the foreign currency translation, their real same-store sales were up about 3%, rather than 5%. So, I just bring that up because that's going to be a thing this quarter and going forward -- part of what is helping some of the U.S. numbers is the weakness of the dollar.
Hill: That's a good point. I appreciate that.
Barker: It's not as interesting as that long Bob Newhart watch thing.
Hill: [laughs] It's much more relevant for investors, though.