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DJ LVMH Tells Tiffany Staff to Return to Office Two Days a Week -- Update

· 02/05/2021 17:25
By Suzanne Kapner

After taking control of Tiffany & Co., LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE is telling the U.S. jeweler's employees to come back to the office.

The French luxury-goods giant instructed Tiffany's corporate staff to return to the office two days a week beginning March 1, according to people familiar with the situation. "It's critical at this time of change that we adopt a hybrid approach to onsite-remote working," LVMH told employees in a memo this week.

Tiffany will join a small list of large New York companies that have required employees to return to the office, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. In Houston, Shell Oil Co. and some other energy companies brought back workers as early as May or June, only to send them home again amid coronavirus outbreaks.

A spokesman for Tiffany had no immediate comment.

Some companies that had hoped to bring employees back this spring are moving that target to late summer and beyond as Covid-19 case counts remain elevated. About 14% of New York City workers have returned, according to data from Kastle Systems, a security firm that has been tracking access-card swipes at offices.

The seven-day average of the percent of New York City Covid-19 tests that come back positive is 5%, according to state data, down from a recent high of 6.4% in early January. The World Health Organization recommends that positivity rates stay below 5% for at least two weeks before easing shutdown restrictions.

LVMH's acquisition of Tiffany closed on Jan. 7, after a tumultuous few months in which it tried to back out of the deal. It accused Tiffany executives of mismanaging the company during the pandemic and fought to renegotiate the price, prompting both companies to sue each other. In the end, LVMH bought Tiffany for $15.8 billion, a 2.6% discount from the original price.

Now, LVMH, led by Chief Executive Bernard Arnault, must revive Tiffany at a time when it has been deprived of crucial tourist spending and when the broader industry is still reeling from the damage wrought by the pandemic. LVMH hopes that having people in the office will speed up the integration, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

LVMH believes that having people physically present is an important part of a successful and collaborative culture, another person said.

In early January, LVMH installed new leadership at Tiffany. LVMH executive Anthony Ledru returned to Tiffany, where he previously oversaw North American operations, as chief executive. Mr. Arnault's son Alexandre Arnault was named executive vice president of product and communications.

The back-to-work edict is in keeping with LVMH's policies for its other companies, which include Louis Vuitton and Dior, and its staff in France. LVMH's U.S. employees have been working with this hybrid model since September, according to one of the people. The two-day-a-week hybrid schedule has been common in France since the government reopened offices after a mid-December lockdown.

Employees will have their temperature checked upon entering the building, hand sanitizer will be placed throughout, masks are required and will be provided and social-distancing rules will be in effect. Conference rooms will be at half capacity and only two people will be allowed in elevators at the same time, according to the memo.

Some workers are eager to return to work after nearly a year of at-home confinement, according to one of the people familiar with the situation. But others are struggling with child-care issues, and some don't feel comfortable taking public transportation until vaccines are more widely available, this person said. LVMH is taking those considerations and the safety of staff into account as it rolls out the hybrid policy, and employees will have the option of arriving late and leaving early, according to the memo.

Tiffany had more than 14,000 employees as of December, including staff at its retail stores around the world. As of January 2020, about 5,000 of its employees were in the U.S. Tiffany has reopened many of its roughly 300 retail stores around the world.

--Chip Cutter contributed to this article.

Write to Suzanne Kapner at Suzanne.Kapner@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 05, 2021 17:25 ET (22:25 GMT)

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