1 – When and how did you start your own import business? Why did you choose to represent the brands with which the company works and how they are doing in sales in the country?
After a long and sedimented career at LVMH, Chanel and Tory Burch I realized that it was time to start my own business. For all the companies I worked for I did the start up and thought it was time to make my own start up. After a 6-month sabbatical period, where I visited Asia and dedicated myself to my daughters, I returned to the market with Prestige Cosmetics, along with two partners who also have a solid career in this sector: Roberto Thiry and Shinji Motoyama. We began by assuming the distribution of Bourjois Paris, which was looking for a new partner in Brazil for import and distribution, continuing a very well performed work. Soon afterwards we ended up adding new brands. Others knew of our entry into the market and sought us out, relying on our expertise and experience. Today we add important names to our portfolio like Cartier Parfums, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Dunhill London, Agent Provocateur and MTV Fragrances. The first major challenge was to keep the bottom line in sales, at a time when virtually all sectors of the economy recorded declines. The positive recall of these brands and the unquestionable quality of the products, besides the trust of our shopkeepers, has counted in our favor. It is important to emphasize that because we represent brands with a very positive cost-benefit, even in times of falling sales in the industry, the price practiced by these brands made the difference. Of course, some margins needed to be revised at source, slightly lowering the profit margin.
2 – Prestige is marketing some brands that were from other importers such as the Cartier brand. So there is a certain brands rotation in the country, Why is this happening in this business?
The rotation of brands and importers happens when one of the parties is not satisfied with the work developed nor with the results achieved. In our favor it counted the solid career built by all of us of Prestige Cosmetics. I often say that we are a new company with experienced people. I have 24 years of experience in this market and my partners more than 15 years each. Most of the brands we represent already know us. Bourjois Paris for example was always developed in Brazil by one of our partners, Roberto Thiry, who took care of the brand in Brazil since its arrival and it would be natural for the brand to look for us when it comes to finding a new distributor to represent it. My history at LVMH, especially with Dior, introduced me to the industry in all its structures from duty free, through training, commercial area, marketing until reaching higher positions. We have a great differential that is our retail expertise. Both I, with experience in the Direction of Chanel fashion and Shinji who was CFO of Zara and Sephora brought us a vision much more focused on Retail and our dialogue with customers becomes easier. But everything did happen in a very natural way.
3 – How to raise the trust and what to offer to conquer great brands, competing with other importers in the country?
Prestige Cosmetics is formed by a strong professionals team and with a historical of great experience in the cosmetics and fragrances sector. This is a very important asset for brands that seek positioning in a competitive market and great opportunities. In addition, by positively developing the image of a brand in our portfolio, generating good results and attracting visibility, other brands are automatically interested in getting to know those responsible for this distribution. This is a very difficult market due to the complexity and cost “Brazil”, but easy to map when one has deep knowledge and strong relationships.
4 – What is the strategy for the business to go ahead in a country where the dollar is unstable and the economy undergoes successive crises?
The strategy is to plan very well, seek partnerships in all spheres of business, seek a good margin with the brands to offer a competitive price, to abuse of creativity and not be afraid to dare even in difficult times. Prestige Cosméticos strictly follows a planning so that goals and results are achieved, valuing its human material and taking care of the image of the brands as if these brands were ours. We believe that the hard times of the economy are nearly over, but our professional experience and our expertise teaches us that some lessons need to be a daily exercise, one is to focus on the selling point and the other is not to waste financial resources or good business opportunities that can arise at any time.
5 – How to maintain the confidence of the brands and the sales at a reasonably stable level to keep them in your company?
When an international brand comes to us, it already comes knowing of our expertise..This is a small market where everyone knows each other and everyone speak to each other, on many occasions many of us already worked together, so it is difficult a brand come to us with no information. Another point in our favor is our solid built career that aggregates mercadological information. The representatives of the large conglomerates of international brands frequent each other and know each other and it gets easy to get informed about good contacts in countries where they have not yet arrived. Every year we are present at the most important international fairs in the industry, and that is where we show a little more of our work and the results.
6 – Is investment in marketing is fundamental or is it possible to have reasonable sales more with actions at points of sale?
Marketing will always be an important tool to achieve the expected and necessary results for the brand image, and this same marketing touches on different aspects of business such as strategic planning, visual communication, merchandising, choosing the correct portfolio for each selling point, institutional and promotional actions, public relations and events, as well as sponsorship and commercial partnerships above all much training. Preparing the selling point goes beyond the product displayed and marketed. All pre and post sale steps are critical. Today, with such aggressive competition, a reduction in sales and an economic crisis that has hampered the development of the sector, it is precisely at the selling point, at the effecting the saleand consumer loyalty that our main focus is. But to have good results at the selling point, the marketing structure needs to be strong, efficient and well structured.
7 – You were one of the first professionals to bet on Internet sales. What has changed from there to here for your business on this channel?
I started when a very young boy (23 years old) came to me at LVMH to open a sales site. The market was very closed and the very resistant luxury brands of how to enter and sell in an unknown world in which you can not convey the detail of the luxury. It was only possible to open a business on the Internet if there was a physical store and at that time they have started inside a shop of a client of ours. I was able to approve with Dior at the time the entrance to this site and we were one of the first luxury brands to believe and sell in e-commerce. This “small” site was sold a few years ago to Sephora.
Much has changed in recent years, we can say that these changes were never imagined and extremely fast. However for our business the changes have been very positive since we have as essential partners the biggest players in the market like Sephora.com, Sepha, Cosmetics, Beauty on the Web, etc.
Brazil has continental dimensions and it is natural that not all brands are present in physical every selling ponts, besides they do not have distribution logistics of wide geographic coverage.
Therefore the e-commerces are tools where the consumer can acquire their favorite brands or even others less accessible, without great difficulty. The professionalization and credibility of the electronic market has attracted more and more customers who have lost their fear of buying through the Internet, generating a considerable increase of this market. In addition, accessibility to the Internet on mobile devices such as mobile phones facilitates the relationship between customers and digital commerce.
Another important factor in the warming and growth of this market is the lack of time that does not allow frequent visits to the traditional points of sale, generating an immediate consumption desire very well served by the websites and other apps of electronic sale.