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Tiffany Seeks to Break Down Some Barriers with Sterling Silver

25 june 2009

When Beth Canavan, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co., arrived in Toronto this past week, she did her best to convince the customs officer that, yes, he too could afford Tiffany jewelry, says Toronto Star in an article posted on www.diamonds.net. "I told him I was here to open a new Tiffany store at Yorkdale, and I said, 'You have to come visit.'"

"Yeah, right," he replied, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, right!" Canavan countered cheerily. "I'll bet you will find something for yourself and a loved one."

When Tiffany & Co. swung open its massive stainless steel doors at Yorkdale on Friday, it was battling a myth that Tiffany is only for the rich and famous. Hollywood has helped fuel the notion, first with Audrey Hepburn's window-shopping scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and more recently with Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." Her character is led blindfolded into the New York flagship store by her wealthy boyfriend, who then proposes.

"So often people think they can't afford us, or are intimidated by the image," Canavan says. Expansive windows and a warm, gracious interior are aimed at breaking the psychological barrier. So, too, is the new charm bar, where sterling silver charms priced from $65 are displayed in the open air, not locked under glass. The Yorkdale store is among the first of Tiffany's 200 stores in 21 countries to try the concept.

Recession-conscious pricing has also kicked in. The new Tiffany Keys pendants, styled after vintage keys in the Tiffany archives, start at $130 in sterling silver. But they also come in gold, platinum and diamonds, for when times are good. The keys share a room with iconic designs by Paloma Picasso, Frank Gehry and Elsa Peretti.

And beckoning in another room are those famous Tiffany engagement rings with a nearby private salon where all kinds of dreams can come true. "You cannot imagine how many proposals we've had in our stores globally," Canavan says, beaming. At the Bloor Street flagship store, sales associates have put a "Will you marry me?" note in the window, or tagged a ring in a jewelry case with the woman's name.

"He'll get down on his knee, and we are right there with the mimosas or champagne," Canavan adds. "It's really fun for our whole team." So integral are some staff members to the proposal that they receive invitations to the wedding.

Other Yorkdale merchants must be thrilled with their new neighbor — except for the competing jewelers, of course. "In many malls, the landlord will treat us like an anchor because of the traffic we bring to the party," Canavan says. "We really are a destination."

And while Tiffany expects that current customers will take advantage of not having to make the trek downtown, there are no fears they might be cannibalizing their Bloor Street business. "A year after we open a new store, we go back and see how many are new customers," Canavan says. "In every case, at least 55 percent are new, and that can go up as high as 70 percent. That's what propels us to expand. When we enter a new market, we're taking market share from other jewelers."