Hotel Chocolat records key annual digital growth enabling 250 new jobs

The Hotel Chocolat Group has reported a digitally-led increase in annual revenues, up 21% on 2020’s results, to a total of £165 million amid plans to create 250 new jobs for its expanding business, writes Neill Barston.

According to Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and CEO, growth potential for the business ‘had never been better in our history’, despite trading challenges of the past 18 months during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK-founded company’s latest trading update, covering the 52 weeks ended 27 June 2021, the business noted that its latest results exceeded those achieved in 2019 by 24 per cent. This was particularly assisted by growth in a number of key markets including the US (with sales up 62% year-on-year (75% of these from its regional website), and in Japan, where joint-venture sales grew by 277% compared to the previous year.

Since its previous trading update in May, group-wide trading has reportedly remained strong. With all channels open, sales for the 10 weeks from 19 April 2021 to 27 June 2021 grew 34 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, and 63 per cent compared to the same period in 2020 when all physical locations were closed.

As the company noted, having expanded its UK customer database by 66 per cent to three million in the 18 months since December
2019, digital and subscription sales were now a substantially larger proportion of its total revenue, which has continued to be the case following shop re-openings this summer.

UK store performance since the reopening on 12 April has also been encouraging. Strong trading in smaller cities and market towns has largely offset lower footfall in commuter and tourist locations.

The company noted a wider economic upturn in the UK, though uncertainty remained over future Covid-19 restrictions. Despite this, it added that its board remained encouraged by the brand’s overall performance.

Angus Thirlwell, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hotel Chocolat, said: “I am fortunate to be able to say that the growth avenues ahead of us have never been better in Hotel Chocolat’s history. The strategies we put in place two years ago are now delivering accelerated growth. Our Velvetiser inhome drinks system, our VIP and digital programmes, and our USA and Japanese joint-venture start-ups have step-changed our growth potential.

“Our goal of becoming the most tech-activated chocolate brand is moving forward in leaps and bounds and is already helping to power our major achievements and future growth. Indeed, this year we expect more than 50% of our sales to come from digital, partners, and subscription-continuity models, reflecting how Hotel Chocolat is growing and evolving.

Our brand-building stores will continue to play a pivotal role in our digital-led business, with an unrivalled ability to introduce new customers to our brand. I am particularly excited by what we have achieved so far in the USA and Japan, two of the three largest economies in the world. We have great growth opportunities there for Hotel Chocolat and strong teams in place to drive and support it.

“We are proud to be making our chocolate in the UK and will be creating over 250 new roles this year as we grow our team, from designers and data gurus to engineers and apprentices.”

He added that in terms of flavours, Passion Fruit & Mango Cacao Gin were proving a real hit this summer, as is new Peanut Butter drinking chocolate. In addition, its other innovations including peanut butter drinking chocolate, Ice Cream of the Gods, and its range of coffee beans and pods, complete with an in-home pod recycler.


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