Hotel Chocolat says strong online sales more than made up for the effect of Covid-19 on its UK stores in the UK in the first half of its financial year.
The company says that its multichannel model gave it the flexibility to react when trading restrictions affected UK stores in November and, to a lesser extent, December. It meant it responded to strong demand online in a way that “more than offset the temporary closures of physical retail due to Covid restrictions”.
Group sales across channels in the half-year to December 27 were 11% ahead of the same time last, including growth of 19% in the second quarter.
Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, says: “The strength of the brand and our ability to flex our multichannel model meant that despite the challenging environment every business and every family has faced, we were able to keep on delivering chocolat happiness, launch new products and deliver strong sales growth.
“The growth momentum stepped up in Japan and the USA, and we have seen that it’s underpinned by what the Hotel Chocolat brand brings that is differentiated and exciting to these mega markets. Encouragingly, we have also made significant progress in the period in building an operational platform for future growth.
“We accelerated several of our digital growth initiatives over the last year and can clearly see the huge potential ahead. Whilst there is still further near-term pandemic-related uncertainty, and ongoing increased costs in reacting to it, I am increasingly confident that in the medium-term we can deliver significant further growth in the UK, USA and Japan.”
In the US, Hotel Chocolat sales grew by 8% in the first half, including 19% in the second quarter, as the retailer again used its multichannel model to adapt to changing market conditions.
In Japan, the retailer is now selling via a joint venture with 18 shops and a growing online database.
Hotel Chocolat, which is ranked Top100 in RXUK Top500 research, says that since December sales have been in line with management expectations, “despite materially higher investments in the acceleration of our digital and international growth plan and ongoing pandemic-related response costs”.