Stores

Montblanc spills on its brick-and-mortar strategy

The luxury goods company opened a new boutique in Ireland last month.
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Montblanc

· 3 min read

Plenty of ink has been spilled on the importance of brick and mortar. Allow us to spill a little more: Montblanc opened a new boutique in Belfast, Ireland, last month, in the latest example of the company’s store strategy. The space is rooted in providing an experience. For example, customers can test its high-end fountain pens and inks, as well as styling different watches and leather products.

Or, at Montblanc’s New York City flagship (which opened last year), there is the Snowcap ink table and bar, where handwriting enthusiasts can test their favorite ink color on paper.

  • The 4,425-square-foot store also includes a tech wall, so shoppers can discover innovations like augmented paper and its smart headphones.
  • The company has 62 boutiques in the US and 54 in Canada.

Open-door policy: Montblanc introduced this new, experiential boutique concept about six years ago, and has since renovated 60%–70% of those stores in the time since, Sylvain Costof, president of Montblanc North America, told Retail Brew. And tapping into the senses has been critical to its store format, he explained.

“You need to be able to enjoy the shape of the pen. You need to be able to enjoy the weight of the pen,” he said. “You can buy a fantastic suit online, but you will never have the same experience that if you put it on your shoulder, and it fits perfectly well.”

Not to say there isn’t value in digital (Costof noted the company does release online-first collections) but he said Montblanc customers prefer the store. Even if they discover the company on social media, most of the purchases are done IRL—in part because of the price point of the company’s goods, according to Costof. (For instance, a StarWalker Precious Resin Fountain Pen costs $510.)

“What we learned [is] that, overall, globally, the mix between the digital and the brick and mortar changed a little bit, but definitely, I think we come back to [a] normal pattern,” he said.

  • The personal luxury goods market has returned to pre-pandemic levels, reaching $325 billion in sales in 2021.  ​​
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Have some sense: Anjee Solanki, national director of US retail services at real estate brokerage Collier’s, agrees that Montblanc’s multisensory approach helps deliver on the experiential component of retail.

About 72% of consumers believe that “touch” creates ambiance in a shopping experience, according to a January Collier’s survey. That’s second only to “sight” at 86.5%, and above sound, smell, and taste at 53.8%, 45.6%, and 2.4%, respectively.

“Experience can be so many different things. And that’s the beauty of retail, is that they have the ability to create these things,” Solanki told us. “And now, what I think we’re seeing is technology stepping into that space and personalizing it.”

Looking ahead...More store renovations and openings are in the pipeline for Montblanc, Costof said. “Nothing ever will replace the attention to detail that a sales associate can give you by showing you all the details, all the stories—especially in a brand like this, where we have so many stories.”

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