WRAPUP 1-Holiday sales at Tiffany show little shine; Zale gains
* Tiffany holiday same-store sales flat worldwide
* Tiffany sees fiscal 2013 net income at low end of own forecast
* Zale U.S. fine jewelry same-store sales up 2.2 percent
* Tiffany shares down 3.3 percent; Zale up 8.4 percent
(Adds Zale forecast, details on sales by segment, analysts' comments)
Jan 10 (Reuters) - Tiffany & Co posted holiday sales that suggested its torrid growth of recent years was stagnating in the United States, Japan and Europe, with China the only bright spot for the upscale jeweler.
The company, famed for its blue boxes and its Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan, said on Thursday that worldwide sales at stores open at least year were flat in November and December, a period that can account for one-third of jewelers' annual sales and almost half of profit.
Tiffany also suggested sales and earnings growth would be modest in the coming fiscal year, and its shares fell more than 3 percent.
Chief Executive Officer Michael Kowalski said Tiffany was planning "conservatively" for next year's sales growth because of "uncertainty" about the economy in all of its major markets.
A difficult economy prompted the retailer to scale back its sales and profit forecasts three times this fiscal year.
Earlier in the fiscal year, Tiffany, which is best known for its pricey diamond necklaces and rings, blamed weak demand for its less expensive silver jewelry, which accounts for a quarter of its business.
Citi analyst Oliver Chen said in a note that Tiffany needed to improve its selection of lower-priced jewelry "to regain a customer who may not be able to afford the current offering."
Despite Tiffany's challenges, Oppenheimer & Co analyst Brian Nagel said in a note that he expected the stock to recover over time because of rising demand for luxury goods.
Tiffany expects net earnings to rise 6 percent to 9 percent in the year beginning in February. That means a range of $3.39 to $3.49 per share, Canaccord Genuity analysts said in a note, well below the $3.78 Wall Street consensus estimate.
Net worldwide sales during the holiday season rose 4 percent, helped primarily by gains in China. Elsewhere, the numbers were lackluster, even falling 2 percent at Tiffany's Fifth Avenue flagship.
In Europe, sales at stores open at least a year were flat, while in Japan, Tiffany's second-biggest market, they rose 1 percent, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations. In Asia, same-store sales were up 7 percent.
Because of the sluggish holiday sales, the company expects earnings to come in at the lower end of its earlier forecast of $3.20 to $3.40 per share for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31.
Tiffany shares were down 3.3 percent at $61.17 in morning trading. They had risen 3.4 percent in the two days since Kay Jewelers and Jared parent Signet Jewelers Ltd <SIG.N., the largest U.S. jeweler, raised expectations about Tiffany's performance by reporting stronger-than-anticipated holiday numbers.
Tiffany's mid-tier rival, Zale Corp continued to show an improvement in its holiday sales, but at a slower pace. U.S. same-store sales at its fine jewelry stores rose 2.2 percent, it said on Thursday, well below the year-earlier 9 percent increase.
That was also weaker than the 4.7 percent rise in U.S. same-store sales at Signet Jewelers Ltd, but Zale reiterated its forecast that it will return to profitability this fiscal year after several years of losses. Its shares rose 8.4 percent to $4.54.
The company also operates two chains in Canada, where same-store sales rose 2.7 percent.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Grant McCool)