Montblanc, the world’s most famous maker of cherished writing instruments, has long used its luxury pedigree to make inroads into travel retail, where it is the leader in the channel within the Richemont Group.
“Travel retail is an important sales channel for our Maison,” says Anouar Guerraoui, Managing Director, South America, Caribbean and Travel Retail Americas for Montblanc. “From a merchandising point of view, luxury is taking more space in travel retail, and this has been happening within the last few years.”
But Montblanc has been in the channel for decades, and has developed from primarily a purveyor of top-tier writing instruments into a luxury brand comprising three main pillars: writing instruments, leather goods and watches.
“We cater to an audience looking for craftsmanship and design. Montblanc’s mission is to create fine lifetime companions born from bold ideas and expertly crafted through the skills of the Maison’s artisans,” says Guerraoui.
Describing himself as “a pure product of Richemont,” the dynamic executive has spent his entire 18 year career working with different brands within the group, joining Montblanc in 2014. He is a strong proponent of luxury.
“It all comes down to the appeal of luxury. Why? First and foremost a luxury product is an unbelievable product. It is made with artisanal expertise, it is made with savoir-faire from centuries ago. To me it is something historical combined with craftsmanship; it is something that is exceptional. Luxury for some can be exclusivity, and uniqueness as well, because either it is special or it is so hard to make it cannot be available for everyone. And an important part of luxury is the experience that goes with it,” he insists.
To this end, Montblanc continues to invest heavily in its stores.
“Our Boutiques are getting equipped with new modules to change the client’s interaction with our products and their overall experience with Montblanc. We just renovated a boutique in the region a few months ago, and to create a special experience, we added an ink bar where customers can try all different kinds of ink with our writing instruments. We also installed a station to emboss and personalize any leather goods you buy there.”
“Since new technologies is an important category for our Maison, we will install tech corners in travel retail. We have designed new furniture only dedicated to technology to showcase our products from this category – from iPhone covers and augmented paper to our Summit smart watch and a smart bracelet and more to come. We want to address the growing need for digital luxury among the traveler segment.”
Such experiential activities are crucial to compete in today’s markets, especially in travel retail, he says.
“Creating an experience in the store today is a must. The Maison wants to leave an impression on someone. Maybe years ago you bought in travel retail because there was a price incentive, but travel retail is no longer just transactional; people come to discover. Travel retail can be amazing visually for a brand, and the traffic that travel retail brings is huge.”
Montblanc has a very large presence in the Americas, and holds a unique position among luxury brands in South America.
The company has 26 external domestic boutiques throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, not counting around another 60 internal boutiques that are mostly company owned in Brazil, Mexico and the U.S. In addition, the company operates four travel retail airport boutiques in LATAM: two with Dufry in Sao Paulo and Colombia, one in Lima with a local partner, and one in Panama with Motta. Montblanc also has four airport boutiques in North America with DFA in Miami, Atlanta, Washington Dulles and Dallas.
“Latin America is definitely a key market for Montblanc. Montblanc is the leading luxury brand of Brazil, delivering double digit growth this year domestically. Montblanc is an inspiring brand in Brazil, and Dufry has a Montblanc boutique in the airport. In terms of market size for us, Mexico is number one, Brazil number two, and Colombia number three, then a combination of Panama and then others.”
Guerraoui also credits the diversity of the product offer for Montblanc’s success in travel retail.
“Montblanc is a complete luxury brand with a full array of products and a broad reach. And each of our three pillars contributes almost equally to the total business,” he notes.
According to Guerraoui, Montblanc has been pushing the boundaries of innovation ever since the brand first revolutionized the culture of writing in 1906.
“Ingenuity and imagination continue to be driving forces for the Maison today as it advances its expression of fine craftsmanship across product categories. The iconic Montblanc Emblem has become the ultimate seal of performance, quality and an expression of sophisticated style. With its origins deeply rooted in the culture of handwriting, Montblanc continues to assert its cultural commitment around the world honoring modern day patrons who support the advancement of the arts, as well as wide-ranging initiatives that promote arts and culture,” he says.
Montblanc has also revolutionized the leather business over the past five years, says Guerraoui.
“Our clear focus for this year is in our travel segment. We launched #MY4810 trolley last year and we’d like to deliver a full experience in the travel category. Travel reconnects us with the world, allows us to experience new places and cultures, provides us with inspiration. It is deeply rooted in our history when our founders started their journey across the Atlantic more than 100 years ago.”
Montblanc is also so successful because it appeals to a diverse audience, he says.
“Half of our traffic is ladies buying gifts, along with business professionals, millennials, all the way to the super rich for our high value writing instruments and watches. This is due to the craftsmanship, and the value of the Montblanc product. We create a lifetime companion that stays with you forever. We produce accessories that go with you. We are a complete brand. People get attached to our products and that is what makes us very special.”