Covid-19: Hotel Chocolat investing in further digital flexibility

Hotel Chocolat has revealed it is fast-tracking its investment and innovation plans for its digital and subscription model, as the business’s store estate remains closed due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

In a trading update, the confectionary retailer said closing all its stores over what is typically a lucrative Easter period for the company had a “material impact on trading”, although it welcomed the robustness of its digital offering in the circumstances.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and group CEO of Hotel Chocolat, revealed online demand over each day of the Easter period “exceeded the quantity of orders we could accept, due to the requirements to ensure safe working, combined with the short adjustment period”.

"Our market leadership in digital and subscription chocolate is more valuable than ever and we will accelerate the planned innovations and investments behind these models,” Thirlwell remarked.

“Plans are in progress to re-open our physical locations when appropriate, with adjustments in place to make shopping with us safe and pleasurable again.”

He added: “With the plans we are putting in place over the next months, we aim to be able to switch the vast majority of demand to online should the need arise in the future."

The retailer did not provide any trading figures, but said online sales were encouraging despite not mitigating the total retail sales loss over the key three-week Easter period, which is usually one of the busiest times of the year for the business.

Hotel Chocolat also confirmed today the successful completion of an increase to its banking facilities, in the form of a new £35 million revolving credit facility with Lloyds Bank. The move replaces an existing £10 million overdraft facility, and follows the group’s recent equity placing, announced on 20 March, from which it raised £22 million to fund growth capital investment and to provide operational headroom.