July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Tiffany & Co. showed off its first handbag collection in 20 years, including a $17,500 glazed-crocodile “Manhattan” satchel, on the Web today as part of a strategy to extend its brand beyond jewelry.
The full collection appeared on the website following piecemeal information released in recent months. Many of the handbags will be priced at $1,000 to $2,000, said Mark Aaron, a spokesman for the New York-based jeweler. He declined to provide sales projections.
Tiffany’s 12 largest U.S. stores will begin selling the bags, made of materials like suede, snakeskin and natural-grain calf, in September. The line may generate sales of “highly profitable” wallets and small leather accessories around the world, Chief Financial Officer James Fernandez said last month. Tiffany previously sold leather goods about two decades ago.
“A blue box from Tiffany is instantly credible as a gift,” said Steven Dennis, a former executive at Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and president of retail adviser SageBerry Consulting LLC in Dallas. “Smaller leather goods, those are very giftable categories.”
Handbags may pose a challenge since the company isn’t known as a fashion or a leather-goods brand, and shoppers may seek out a known label, such as Hermes, if they’re going to spend that kind of money, he said in a telephone interview.
Tiffany shares fell $1.61, or 4 percent, to $39.18 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have dropped 8.9 percent this year.
The collection of day and evening handbags for women; briefcases and bags for men; and accessories for both, was designed by Richard Lambertson and John Truex, who joined Tiffany about a year ago. Tiffany said in April that prices might range from $395 to $16,500 for women, and $95 to $1,395 for men.
The accessories include wallets, key holders, business card holders, and luggage tags priced at $100 to $120, Fernandez said at a June 17 investors’ conference.
“They’re very high-margin, very profitable products,” he said. “The handbag collection gives support to that.”
Tiffany, the world’s second-largest luxury jewelry retailer, over time will convert space once used for china and crystal -- which is “just not that profitable” -- for the leather goods, Fernandez said in June.
“The handbag collection, it’s probably more flagship-store-oriented around the world, where we would have a much broader kind of customer group,” Fernandez said. “But the leather accessories will be probably in every store around the world, and I think they’ll provide a great, great opportunity.”
The collection includes a $595 “Holly” clutch, a possible reference to Holly Golightly, the character in Truman Capote’s novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Golightly was portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film of the same name.
The handbags come in rich shades such as Tiffany blue, onyx, garnet and red, according to the website. The evening bags have Tiffany jewelry-inspired touches like a chunky beaded wrist chain and longer crystal chains inspired by diamond necklaces. Items also have Tiffany blue leather linings, as well as touches of that color enamel on their hardware.
Lambertson and Truex also created the TRT, or Tiffany reversible tote, which is suede on one side and metallic leather on the other, for $395 to $595. Tiffany bought their bankrupt Lambertson Truex leather-goods brand from Samsonite Corp. for an undisclosed price in mid-2009. Lambertson Truex filed for bankruptcy protection in March of that year.
The jeweler, which operated 221 stores and boutiques worldwide as of April 30, diversified into Tiffany-branded handbags and scarves in the 1980s. It discontinued the items in the early 1990s.
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