Jewelry is a timeliness gift and a completely discretionary expense. However, buying fancy baubles never seems to go out of style. Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF), Blue Nile Inc (NASDAQ:NILE), and Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE:SIG) each fill a different niche in the space.
Most people know full well that buying jewelry is an unnecessary expense. Sales are better in good times and worse when the economy cools off, but they never seem to stop.
Engagements, marriages, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, or just because, there are any number of reasons to show someone that you love them with a ring, watch, or necklace. Although not exactly on a firm footing, the U.S. economy is starting to show some signs of strength. That could be good news for jewelry retailers.
The Little Blue Box
There's something about that little blue box from Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) that sets a woman's heart aflutter. While you may or may not understand it, there's no denying that a Tiffany anything stands out from the rest of the crowd. And Tiffany works hard to make sure of that.
It positions itself at the very high-end of the jewelry market, even for its famous, and aspirational, silver jewelry. However, the company sells much more, including diamonds, watches, and eating utensils.
Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF)'s sales grew up to the 2007 to 2009 recession, fell for two years, and have since begun to grow again. Although earnings are a little variable because of the commodity nature of what it sells, the company hasn't earned less than $1.45 a share over the last decade and posted earnings of $3.25 last year. It has a history of regular, though not annual, dividend increases.
The company has a global brand and reach, so more than just U.S. economic shifts need to be considered. However, a long history of success and an instantly recognized and respected brand set this company apart.
At the high end of the jewelry market, Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) shares are trading near all-time highs and have a price to earnings ratio in the low 20s. Growth investors would do well to consider this one, even if it only winds up on a watch list for a pullback.
Blue Nile Inc (NASDAQ:NILE) is at the opposite end of the jewelry spectrum. The company's big focus is on diamonds, though it sells plenty of other trinkets. However, by using the Internet as its sales medium, the company has built a large business and managed to offer customers a good value proposition.
Like Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF), Blue Nile Inc (NASDAQ:NILE)'s top-line fell during the recession, but has picked up since. Its sales, meanwhile, have grown from $130 million a decade ago to $400 million last year. That's pretty impressive for an upstart jewelry store that doesn't have any stores.
Part of its unique business model is that it doesn't actually take ownership of diamonds until they have been paid for by a customer. That helps reduce costs and limits the impact of commodity price changes, though it doesn't eliminate the issue.
While the top-line has been growing of late, the bottom-line has been a bit weak. Part of the problem is increasing Internet competition. Still, the company has a good brand name and is well respected. With no long-term debt, it has plenty of time to adjust to changing industry dynamics. There's likely to be plenty of upside if the company can get earnings headed higher again. However, with a price to earnings ratio of 55, there's also a risk that investors have already priced in that growth.