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Hotel Chocolat starts journey in Japan with first store opening

Hotel Chocolat opened its first store in Japan, last week, at the Aeon Lake Town shopping centre in Tokyo – the largest mall in the country.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat, said reaction to the brand’s inaugural store in Japan had been “hugely encouraging”.

"Customer engagement, media attention and sales performance were all well ahead of expectations,” he said on Monday (26 November).

"Our portfolio of products landed with aplomb. ‘Hot chocolat’ drinks, our 8g sculpted chocolate batons, and our Selector range were all in high demand. We look forward to unfolding the brand further here."

The opening comes after Hotel Chocolat signed a franchise joint venture (JV) development agreement for Japan, in September.

The UK brand initially has a 20% stake, while local management hold 80% of the business. Goods will be supplied wholesale with a royalty paid on sales, and the Aeon Lake Town store has arrived in advance of the peak Japanese gift-giving seasons in February and March.

Chris Horobin, former CEO of QVC Japan, is CEO of the JV. QVC is one of a limited number of Hotel Chocolat's list of wholesale partners, which also includes Amazon and Ocado.

In a time of uncertainty and structural change in UK retail, Hotel Chocolat is growing sales and profit. In the 12 months to 1 July 2018, the company reported an 11% year-on-year increase in revenue to £116.3 million and a 14% jump in profit after tax to £10 million.

Recent digital innovations announced by the business include the launch of The Gift Finder, a tool which poses three quick questions to online customers before serving up bespoke solutions. In addition, the newly released Whoosh Instant Gifts by Text service provides a rapid way of getting a gift to someone’s smartphone.

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