Big Interview: Guillaume Brocart, Digital Manager, Montblanc

Montblanc is synonymous with luxury and prestige. Founded over 100 years ago, it started off by selling pens before expanding to watches, jewellery, sunglasses and leather goods. Retail Gazette spoke to digital manager Guillaume Brocart about how the retailer strives to be modern while respecting its heritage.

Montblanc digital manager Guillaume Brocart big interview with retail gazette
"Ecommerce is growing. I wouldn’t say it’s the focus but it’s definitely what we’re working on." - Montblanc's Guillaume Brocart

For Guillaume Brocart, joining Montblanc as its digital manager was like coming full circle.

“Montblanc has always been in my family,” he reminisced.

“My granddad was a banker so Montblanc was very present. I shopped there before I worked there.”

But before he joined the luxury German retailer and penmaker, Brocart started his career in Australia with a fashion retailer called Rodd & Gunn.

There, he worked on the shop floor, but deep down he knew he always wanted to work in luxury.

“I was always attracted to retail,” he told Retail Gazette.

“I started as a Christmas casual in the stockroom when I was 25, and then I was promoted to a managing position, moved in to marketing and then moved to London, where I worked for TM Lewin back in 2013.”

At TM Lewin, Brocart was in charge of the UK market, and said his job evolved into digital marketing. He soon moved to Topman, where he served as senior global digital marketing manager until 2016.

“I’ve been at Montblanc for two and a half years now,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to work in luxury so Montblanc was the logical next step.”

Brocart added that his interest in Montblanc lies in the fact that it has evolved. When it was founded in 1906, it started selling only pens before eventually expanding to watches, jewellery, sunglasses and leather goods.

“It’s not only one category, so we’ve got four or five categories, it’s not boring, you don’t only sell watches, you sell so many other things,” he said.

Montblanc digital manager Guillaume Brocart luxury
Montblanc started off as selling only pens back in 1906

Brocart prides himself on his “appetite for digital”, something he believes he introduced to Montblanc when he was hired

“Out of all the companies I’ve worked for, in the UK in particular, digital was always the enemy,” he reflected.

“The retail environment was purely bricks and mortar, and I came in with ecommerce and digital marketing.

“I had to change the mentality that we can still grow sales via ecommerce.”

Brocart also admitted to once believing that bricks-and-mortar retail had “died down” – until he joined Montblanc.

“Ecommerce is growing, I wouldn’t say it’s the focus but it’s definitely what we’re working on,” he explained.

“I used to think bricks and mortar was dead, or that it’s going to disappear, but I think when it comes to luxury brands, in particular Montblanc, the touch and feel of a product is still very important.”

He also highlighted how customers who spend “hundreds and thousands on a three-month crafted item” had different needs when it comes to shopping for their items.

“Collectors like to be spoken to separately,” Brocart said.

“For someone that spends more than £20,000 to £30,000 on a product, you wouldn’t want to be approached by a general marketing email, you’d expect a one-to-one and a glass of champagne upon service.

“While other retailers who sell fast fashion don’t necessarily need customers to come in and feel a shirt, with what Montblanc sells, it’s important for our customers to touch and feel an item before purchasing.

“Regardless, I still believe the online share will grow.”

Montblanc digital manager Guillaume Brocart luxury
Brocart believed bricks-and-mortar retail had “died down” until he joined Montblanc, where he realised the importance of stepping into a boutique

Despite the growth of ecommerce and Montblanc’s presence on social media, Brocart said the luxury retailer’s main advertising platform is via print. He added that Montblanc doesn’t necessarily need to advertise its pen collection given its global prestige.

“Our brand awareness in pens is close to 99 per cent – if you want a luxury pen, Montblanc is the first brand you think of,” he said.

While the brand’s luxury status remains intact, Brocart said “the beauty of Montblanc lies in its different price points”.

“We’ve got different price points, but at the same time we are very clear on who we target,” he explained.

“We’ve got the new customers – the younger generation, and we have our traditional customers, our collectors.

“And with different price points, we have something for everyone.”

While it was founded over a century ago, Brocart said Montblanc has had the same values for the past 113 years.

Despite this, he says part of his job is to make it does its best to stay relevant in an increasingly digital age.

“When we moved into smart watches, we spoke to Google and said ‘look we don’t know how to do smartwatches – you do – let’s work on it together and have the best luxury smartwatch in the market’,” he said.

“We were prepared for the last Brexit date and we remain prepared”

“So it’s about keeping the same traditional values but also moving with time in order to stay relevant.”

Moreover, Brocart told Retail Gazette about Montblanc’s presence is over 70 countries, as well as its ambition to further expand. One of these ways was through online fashion retailer Net-A-Porter, after parent company Richemont acquired the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group in May last year.

However, he admitted to fearing the UK market’s performance in regards to Brexit.

“The uncertainty is affecting sales because consumers are now thinking ‘should I keep my money rather than spend it?’, so I can imagine it’s affecting retailers everywhere,” he said.

“I’m French so I feel the same.

“Nevertheless, we were prepared for the last Brexit date and we remain prepared.”

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