The year has been kind to companies that cater to aspirational shoppers. Retailers have found that, while most of us are scrapping by, the upper end of society seems to have plenty of spending power. All through 2013, the income inequality discussion has continued to creep along, but right now, it makes sense for businesses to keep betting on the 1%.
This week, diamond classic Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) announced a better than expected third quarter, sending the stock jumping. In a rare announcement for this year, the company also said that its year end outlook had been revised up. Everyone else seems to be pushing expectations down, but Tiffany shows the market why betting on the hopes and dreams of America can be a winning proposition.
The 2013 rise of Tiffany
It hasn't always been that way. Tiffany went through a rough patch in 2012, with the cost of goods rising and economic conditions acting as an anchor on sales . All the same, the company managed to grow and build a strong base for 2013.
This year has been all winners, with net income up 20% year to date. The business has seen gross margin expand, comparable sales are up across the world, and the company's Asian business has taken off . The company finally got its try-in with The Great Gatsby, as well, bringing the sparkle and shine to a younger generation.
Other high-end winners
Tiffany's success is not unlike the strength that companies like Michael Kors (NYSE:CPRI) and Restoration Hardware (NYSE:RH) have had. Both companies focus on aspirational shoppers, with wide distribution but just out of normal shopping range prices. Kors has been growing by leaps and bounds, with year to date sales up 45.7% and gross margin running at 61.3%. The company's $1,000 bags have clearly struck a chord with the upper reaches of society.
Restoration Hardware has managed the same trick, growing comparable sales by 26% over 2012, last quarter. The company has tapped the slow growth of the housing market, working the upper end of the real estate game. The company's current shortfall is that, while its goods appeal to the right crowd, its margins have suffered from higher production costs .
In the end, betting on the 1% offers a few benefits. As an economic group, the rich are less susceptible to changes in macroeconomic conditions. They also have less price conscious buying habits, which means strong companies like Kors can manage to pull in super-high margins. On the other side of the coin, it's important to remember that they follow trends just like everyone else. Just because Tiffany is strong today, doesn't mean it's going to be tomorrow's trend.