The Talk: Made in Italy’s efforts rewarded
From your position as entrepreneur and President of Confindustria Toscana Sud’s gold and jewelry division, what exactly is the scenario?
I have always been a very positive person but I’m not so positive at the moment because we are not out of the tunnel by any means. The situation for many companies in the Arezzo district, which depend greatly on exports, is extremely uncertain because the world markets have not recovered. Therefore, companies are travelling at much slower speeds. Flights are still not operating on markets such as Dubai, which, for me, is the sorting hub for all the Arabian countries and Africa, so the situation is hanging in the air. We are waiting for operability to re-start and normality to return. The situation for the American market is slightly different because part of sales is made on-line through television channels and catalogues, which is growing as a sales percentage, but we still cannot speak of recovery and a return to normality.
Are there differences and similarities with other segments of the luxury industry?
Jewelry, fashion. We are all part of the luxury industry and therefore, united by analogies and similarities. Of course, it is hard for luxury to re-start because it is not a primary asset but there is always a high-end clientele bracket that continues to buy.
What do we need to focus on?
In this phase, and in those that follow, we have to focus on quality and Made in Italy because I believe that the final consumer will also want to have a unique and quality product. The general condition, which goes for everyone, is that people will be more careful about what they buy. It’s the same for food: we will buy Italian and we will favor small producers. In that way, the efforts of Made in Italy, whose identity is rooted in that touch of craftsmanship that makes the difference, will be rewarded. Quality is the real similarity with fashion.
The sector’s reprisal is also having to deal with extremely high gold prices.
Fluctuations in the price of gold are undoubtedly a negative factor for the district. But, besides the price – 50 Euro a gram is beyond market logics – in reality, our main enemy is instability. At the moment, however, everything should be faced with a smile. In such a confused and gray moment as this, the price of metal today is not our priority. The point linked to the price of gold is bank credits. You say a price today but you don’t know if it will go down in a month’s time and, in such a difficult phase as this, that complicates the situation enormously.
How has Giordini taken advantage of these months of lockdown and what did you prioritize?
We went ahead with our ideas, new products and new strategies. We drastically reduced those expenses that could be cut while keeping costs linked to design and the study of new product projects intact. For example, finding the machinery to industrialize the process and apply strategies. I believe in high-tech jewelry but with a touch of creativity that makes our savoir faire stand out. A blend of innovation, technology, industrialization and craftsmanship. You need large shoulders to invest in strategies and to continue moving forward. The world is different now to the one we left behind.
What will the jewelry world be like?
As I said earlier, we need to focus more and more on product quality because that will be what the final consumer demands. How we approach the customer will also improve thanks to technologies taking a further step. With the short to medium-term prospective in which travel will be reduced, relations with our customers will be protected and safeguarded by the technological tools that are now available to us. The future will be different. Although I am always in favor of traditional trade shows, we cannot ignore new ways of relating and communicating which will continue to change, providing opportunities that we cannot afford not to seize.
So, should we also be giving e-commerce a chance?
Buying jewelry on-line is changing the way of seeing things. While it is true that jewelry should be seen and touched, if you know the product, now, through 3D viewing and with all the high-tech solutions available, you can exhibit a jewelry item from every aspect and it almost feels like touching it. We will always try to communicate preciousness and beauty beyond the photo. It will not be a fast road but it will certainly be indispensable because the new generations are not shy about buying on-line at all, even expensive items, and we must face the future with a different mentality.
What are the main difficulties regarding the recovery?
There are criticalities and too little and inadequate help has been given for facing this difficult moment. I’m not criticizing but companies have only been offered the chance to burden themselves with debt. Entrepreneurs have even advanced payments for furloughing due to Covid. Companies need a great deal of liquidity. Help came in the form of being able to ask for financing but the creditworthiness required by the banks means that some companies have been left out in the cold. Non-repayable funds for turnover of less than 5 million Euros have been granted but we asked for jewelry companies to be assessed net of the price of the raw material, which is extremely high now. We are still waiting for a reply.
Giordini is a company that boasts over 50 years of activity with 95% of its production going directly to export, above all in Africa and the Arab countries. How are sales in these areas?
The company was founded by my mother and now I manage it with my brother, Alessandro, and my children, Jacopo and Costanza, who also launched the Joelle brand, focusing everything on digital and approaching the market with a totally different mentality to ours. Giordini exports 95% to the Arabian world (Dubai is the distribution hub for North Africa and the Arab countries) while, in Italy, we sell to exporters, we don’t deal with retailers. The African market is very interesting because the women always love to wear gold jewelry. The more gold you have, the richer you are. It is not just a safe haven asset there; gold jewelry is still a status symbol and considered as part of a dowry. The problems we encounter are mainly linked to the fact that we cannot sell directly from Italy and are forced to use distribution hubs, such as Dubai and Turkey. Africa will be the future of jewelry. They buy by the gram even if we sell collection pieces. For them, it is more important to be able to say that they have more than a kilo of gold in their jewelry boxes. It is still a collection but one that is always guided by weight.
Interview by Federica Frosini, Editor in Chief VO+
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