Hotel Chocolat profits beat expectations as stores attracted customers with a combination of leisure, gifts and experiences including chocolate lock-ins.
The chocolatier and multichannel retailer, ranked Top100 in IRUK Top500 research, reported sales of £132.5m in the year to June 30. That’s up by 14% on the previous year. Pre-tax profits of £14.1m were 11% ahead of last time.
Online sales grew by 22% through the Hotel Chocolat website and ecommerce now accounts for 19% of sales.
The retailer now has more than 900,000 members signed up to its new VIP ME loyalty scheme. During the year it opened 14 new stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said it had been a year of significant progress, with profits slightly ahead of expectations.
“In the UK, our physical locations performed well, reflecting their allure and relevance,” said Thirlwell. “Growth was underpinned by the combination of leisure, gifts and experiences including chocolate lock-in tastings, as well as new ranges of drinks and chocolate-dipped ice lollies.”
He added: “Hotel Chocolat locations are a doorway into instant escapist happiness. We relentlessly innovate to make our spaces exciting, relevant, friendly and experiential.”
He said that events such as chocolate lock-ins had performed well and were also widely shared on social media.
The retailer now plans to continue investing in new stores and online in order “to make it increasingly easier for consumers to access our brand and work with selected partners to extend our reach and accessibility.” It said that its profits would support investment in more manufacturing capacity and in becoming more efficient.
It also aims to get to know its 900,000 VIP ME loyalty scheme members better over digital channels. It has launched a gift-sending app and app-based subscription models while also improving ecommerce navigation and conversion.
Hotel Chocolat is continuing to take a test, learn and grow approach to its two international markets of the US and Japan, where it opened four sites over the year and plans another five in the next six months. It also now has four sites in Denmark, with another to open in Copenhagen in the first half of next year.
The retailer said that all of its packaging would be compostable, reusable or recyclable by 2021. It will also offer recycling for any chocolate brand’s plastic packaging through its stores.
Hotel Chocolat said it had contingency plans in place to mitigate the potential short-term supply disruptions in the event of a hard Brexit.
Hotel Chocolat sells online and through 130 outlets in the UK and abroad. It runs a restaurant in the UK and a cacao estate and hotel in Saint Lucia.
Thirlwell said: “The market and wider economy may not be without challenges; however, I remain confident that our plans for the coming year and well beyond will deliver sustainable growth and we have a strong brand and an exciting pipeline of future opportunities. Our aim of eventually becoming the global leader in direct-to-consumer chocolate is firmly in our sights.”
Image courtesy of Hotel Chocolat