Hotel Chocolat online sales jump but fail to offset store closures

Hotel Chocolat said it saw a surge in online sales prior to Easter but this failed to fully offset the shutting of its shops in the face of coronavirus.

The chocolate shop business said it has been encouraged by the “agility and resilience” of its business model and is continuing to explore further avenues for online sales growth.

Hotel Chocolat shut all its retail stores on March 23 after the Government-mandated lockdown was introduced, with non-essential retailers told to shut up shop.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of the company, said “plans are in progress” for the retailer to reopen its stores “when appropriate, with adjustments in place to make shopping with us safe and pleasurable again”.

The firm said that closing its stores in March has had a “material impact” on trading and the company has therefore undertaken a “broad range of actions to manage its costs and cash flow”.

The retailer provided the trading update as it revealed it has secured a new £35 million loan with Lloyds Bank to strengthen its finances.

Hotel Chocolat said the facility will replace a £10 million overdraft facility it had with the bank.

In March, the chocolatier secured £22 million from an equity fundraiser to fund capital investment and provide financial headroom.

Mr Thirlwell said: “The financial headroom gives us greater resilience against ongoing disruption and enables us to move onwards with longer-term growth opportunities.

“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.

“Every day at Easter the online demand exceeded the quantity of orders we could accept, due to the requirements to ensure safe working, combined with the short adjustment period.

“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.”