Luxury goods sell well to Africa's wealthy
A year into his role as Africa regional MD for luxury-goods company Montblanc, Alain dos Santos is forging ahead with one of his biggest tasks - extending the company's footprint in the African market.
Before he was named Africa MD for the company, Dos Santos headed the Brazil region in the same role for about five years.
Previously with Baume & Mercier and Cartier, Dos Santos said Montblanc had over the past year focused on reinforcing its existing retail partnerships in its key African markets such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and Congo.
After eyeing the potential for growth in Ivory Coast, the company is now preparing for the opening of its new standalone boutique store in Abidjan. "Also, during this year, we've identified potential new markets for our Maison's and it has been the case in Ethiopia for example," Dos Santos said.
The company has now set up shop in a multi-brand retail store in Ethiopia's Addis Ababa airport, one of Africa's biggest airports - a sure advantage for its travel products offering.
"Ethiopia is a very strong country. There a more than 10-million travellers a year passing though the airport," he said.
The company has 60 stores in Africa with more than half of these in SA. Its V&A Waterfront Cape Town boutique-styled store is being revamped and will be reopened in June.
Its traditional customers are typically between the ages of 30 and 50 and beyond "and the ambition of Masion's Montblanc now is also to talk to young people", he said.
The company has a new collection of luxury backpacks and novelty products, such as giraffe- and python-skin notebooks and more trendy items with calligraphy fonts aimed at younger customers.
Leather is a growth area for the business. "Small leather goods have always been linked with writing instruments [and] male accessories. With leather you can express a lot of creativity and in the last three to four years we've shifted completely from a very classic functional offering to a very trendy offering, for example the backpack. You can see it's not addressed to the classic doctor with a case, you can see that we are shifting to attract the younger generation," Dos Santos said.
The company is also targeting younger customers to become collectors, he said, adding that the growing middle class in key markets that the company was focused on were fascinated by luxury brands, even with limited discretionary spend.
The perception among its customers is that the products have a strong ratio of quality to price, he said. "We offer an accessible luxury brand experience."