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Hotel Chocolat sales surge aided by 'prolific Instagramming'

UK chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has reported a 14% increase in revenue to £132 million for its financial year ending 30 June 2019.

In a trading statement ahead of its planned preliminary results release on 24 September, the retailer said that its management expects profit before tax for the full year to be in line with market expectations.

Hotel Chocolat showed it is a brand for the modern era, with today’s update bringing some new trading statement lexicon into play. CEO Angus Thirlwell said the company’s new drinks and ices range are experiencing “the most prolific new product Instagramming in our history”.

The Hotel Chocolat Billionaire's Sundaes, Choc Shakes and Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Lollies are apparently “generating lots of excitement".

Operationally, the group opened 16 Hotel Chocolat locations in the year, which it said contributed 5% to group sales year-on-year. Two of the new openings were in the US, while the company has also opened an additional two sites in Tokyo as part of a joint venture.

"I'm really pleased with our performance this year, delivering strong growth across all parts of the Hotel Chocolat multichannel, direct-to-consumer model,” Thirlwell explained.

“New activities in the year included openings in the US and Japan; the launch of the Velvetiser – our in-home drinking chocolate system; and the introduction of our VIP ME rewards card scheme, all of which present substantial future growth opportunities.”

Essential Retail understands that plans are in place at Hotel Chocolat to develop a presence in China, although the CEO said international expansion strategy remains “laser-focused” on the US and Japan in the immediate future.

The retailer operated a store in Hong Kong before closing it down earlier this year after ending its partnership with local distribution partner B&S HK. Now, China is in Hotel Chocolat’s sights and Thirlwell says all options are open as it plans a “China-first” strategy in that part of Asia, with the possibility of going it alone, via a local partner, or online-first all being considered.

“We’re planning to focus on Japan and the US for at least the next year,” he remarked.

“We’ll continue to research China but not do anything about it immediately because we need to stay focused, and we’d rather have a great success in a smaller number of markets than spread ourselves too thinly and dilute the quality of our proposition.”

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