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Ali Pastorini: Challenges make us think out of the box and be closer to customers

20 january 2020

ali_pastorini_excl.pngAli Pastorini is the co-owner of DEL LIMA JEWELRY and President of Mujeres Brillantes, an association which brings together more than 1,000 women working in the gold and diamond trading sector, mainly from Latin America, as well as from Turkey, Spain, Italy, and Germany. The mission of Mujeres Brillantes is to help women in the jewelry and watchmaking sectors consolidate their business in order to exchange professional skills and experience. In the immediate past, Ali Pastorini was also Senior Vice President of the World Jewelry Hub in Panama. In this interview with Rough & Polished she tells about major trends and problems in the jewelry business.

As a jeweler, how confident are you feeling about this year?

2019 was one of the best years for my brand, Del Lima Jewelry (@dellimajewelry). We have consolidated our business in the new markets that we have entered in the last three years without losing our identity as a brand, but respecting each country´s buying culture, which in my opinion is essential to increase the number of clients in so many different places as we are fortunately getting.

Consequently, I do believe that 2020 will be a good year because we are stronger and more ready for any challenge that occasionally will come during the year. The key is you build a team that, together with you, anticipates the problems and opportunities. We know very well which pieces and collections most of our clients like and buy as we know very well until where we, as a brand, can take risks and innovate without losing our path.

What is driving the jewelry demand and what are the current challenges in the market?

One of the biggest challenges still is competing with technological products and showing customers the value of getting jewelry compared to other products. It will be a constant work of education, showing clients why they should have a jewel.

I also know that my colleagues would say they are competing with e-commerce, but honestly these days I view e-commerce as a perfect ally for those who have a store. You can use your store as a showroom, where you present the main pieces of your brand and make the customer get it on-line and have a chance to see other pieces that might not be available in your showroom.

I do not think that brick-and-mortar stores should feel afraid of e-commerce because clients need to touch a piece of jewelry before purchase it. I know that having a showroom with some of your brand’s main jewelry pieces allows the entrepreneur to diversify his/her ways of creating a relationship with the customer, providing new experiences and consequently gaining his/hers loyalty not only to the beauty of your jewelry, but also in other ways that probably until then were little explored.

Challenges are good because they make us constantly think out of the box and be closer to customers as we always must surprise them with something new, even if it is just a different experience at the moment they are purchasing an item. A challenge for the industry is a challenge for modern society - in other words, we have to understand deeply the behavior of this new era and how your brand can communicate in an easy and effective way.

We hear millennials don't buy diamonds the way other generations do. Do you share this view?

No, from our own experience they still buy diamonds. The difference now is that they ask where the stone comes from, they are more interested to know about the details and if you do not know the answer you definitely will lose a client. I think that this is wonderful because gives us the opportunity to educate and show why buying diamonds is better than buying other high-priced products, such as bags, shoes, etc...

Of course, we cannot compare someone from an old generation that has a stable career with some millennial that makes less money annually. The millennial will buy a jewelry piece with few and small diamonds, but he or she will still buy a diamond jewelry piece. Our collection “Diversity” was released in 2017 and is still one of our best-sellers thanks to the millennials because we showed that they still can have a gold piece of jewelry with a small diamond of good quality and for reasonable prices. They feel they are buying something really special and unique for a fair price, consequently they do not feel isolated even knowing that there are Del Lima Jewelry customers who buy luxury pieces of this brand.

Again, if you do not have patience and include these new customers, you definitely lose them. It´s all about education and "recycling our mind" to adapt to new possibilities.

What do you personally prefer - natural or lab-grown diamonds?

I follow what my customers wish to buy, and as I realize it is because our brand educates and shows the difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds that our customers do not even think about purchasing lab-grown diamonds. They want only natural diamonds.

I like natural diamonds, but this would not be enough to convince my clients to purchase natural diamonds. I have to show in practice why I prefer such stones and we hold various events together with our own customers, such as panels and lectures with gemologists explaining in an easy way the benefits of having a natural diamond instead of a lab-grown diamond. Once again, it´s about education and we do not pretend that lab-grown diamonds do not exist. If you are open to explain the difference to your customer, for sure she/he will buy and trust you, you should not expect that the client will “guess” what is the best, simply teach and guide her/him to the best.

What do you think consumers want from the diamond and jewelry industry?

New experiences, it's all about new experiences. You cannot be focused on selling only a product, you must sell a lifestyle, something that the customer never tried, a new feeling, a cause.

My brand felt in these last few years that every time that we offer a new experience, our sales increase dramatically. Even more than when we release a new collection. Again, people love new products, but they love more to try new things even if it is the same product released two or three years ago.

For example, we sponsor a Golf Tour of one day with our best customers in a region. Through this experience, we automatically strengthen the relationship between the customer and us, providing a different activity/experience that they are not used to do or do not have time to do on a day where they relax, have fun, spend more time with the family and consequently associate Del Lima Jewelry with good times.

All big brands around the world (in different sectors) understand that if you only sell a product, naturally your clients will lose interest in your brand. Customers want to feel that they are not only a number for you, they must feel that you care and want to know what they like.

Do you see an increase in consumers looking for sustainable products?

Regarding Del Lima Jewelry, clients still do not look for this. But no doubt that there is an increase of young consumers looking for sustainable products.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a jewelry business?

The advice that I give is the same advice that I would give to anyone starting a business. Don't try to copy others, try to innovate or try to create your own style and identity to sell your product or service, as the consumer will easily recognize if you are trying to copy someone else.

Understand that in the beginning you will invest much more than make a profit, for this reason, it's very important to start your business being really passionate about what you do, and not only do because somebody said so. Starting a new business is exciting but also challenging, as you will have to dedicate yourself completely to make it work, probably work more hours and have to take care of each detail (at least in the beginning). Even if in the beginning you have financial resources to hire employees and make big investments, remember, still it's YOUR business and you must guide your team to where you want to go.

Never stop to study and develop new ideas, as the world and consumers are constantly changing. Try not to be in a “bubble,” companies that don't look for new possibilities automatically become irrelevant in any industry.

And do not punish yourself when you make mistakes or fail, but instead, you better learn from your mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

For Del Lima, we are putting more technology into some new experiences that we want to offer to our customers. There is very exciting news coming but we can't share right now because we will offer something very exclusive that any brand is striving to offer these days.

For Ali Pastorini, I am organizing an International Forum of Jewelry and Watches in Sao Paulo, Brazil in November 2020 with the focus on high luxury entrepreneurs and companies who attend premium consumers around the world. It will be a Forum of two days in the most luxurious mall center in the town with panels of different subjects and the participation of big players in the sector in Brazil and around the world. Foreign delegations are confirmed to attend and big companies from Brazil will attend too. It's something new in the region and we expect at least 400 exclusive people to watch the talks and lectures during these two days. Besides, we will have a great business environment, B2B and B2C, with our brand’s activities in some stores at the mall center. It's something very ambitious for Latin America and yet necessary since that the economy in the country is growing up faster and fortunately many businesspersons understand that this is the moment to invest, do networking and be in Brazil to feel the many possibilities that the country can offer to everyone.

Besides the Forum, I will keep traveling around the world helping some companies to explore new possibilities and ideas as I have done these last three years through different actions (it depends on the company's needs). I am happy that since 2017 I am visiting countries from Latin America, Europe and Asia sharing new insights because at the end of the day it's important we have a strong industry and not only think about our own benefit and profit. A strong industry makes all of us strong too.

What are Mujeres Brillantes main achievements for today?

We already have the next country where will happen the 5th World Meeting, actually, MUBRI (Mujeres Brillantes) is growing up so fast that we signed the agreement last October 2019, but we will announce only in the first semester of 2020.

We are opening two new chapters this year and we already signed the agreement to organize the second edition of the Jewelry Contest Premium Design that will take place in Brazil in August. The Jewelry Contest in 2019 was a big success with more than 300 people attending and this year we expect at least 500 people.

Foreign companies will be again able to sponsor and support new talents of the jewelry business, but it's important to follow the launch to have time to get in touch with us showing the interest to become a sponsor.

Alex Shishlo, Editor of the Rough & Polished European Bureau