Hotel Chocolat turns investors gooey as profits surge

Shoppers are flocking to Hotel Chocolat in record numbers, as the high street retailer revealed profits jumped higher than expected.

Sales at the company were up 14% in the year to June 30, hitting £132.5 million, with pretax profits up 11% to £14.1 million.

The biggest boost came from online sales, which rose 22%, meaning online shopping accounts for nearly £1 in every £5 banked by Hotel Chocolat.

Chief executive and co-founder Angus Thirlwell said the boost came from turning shops into “experiences”.

He said: “Growth was underpinned by the combination of leisure, gifts and experiences including chocolate lock-in tastings, as well as new ranges of drinks and chocolate-dipped ice lollies.

“Hotel Chocolat locations are a doorway into instant escapist happiness. We relentlessly innovate to make our spaces exciting, relevant, friendly and experiential.”

The events spread well on social media, whipping up interest, the company added.

Profits will be reinvested into new stores and online, along with more manufacturing capacity, to meet the increased demand.

Overseas, bosses said the firm is continuing to test out new regions, but is taking the experience slowly, to avoid over-expansion at a tough time for the retail sector.

In the last year, the company opened two stores in the UK, four sites in Japan and plans another five in the next six month. There are also four stores in Denmark, with another opening next year.

Mr Thirlwell added that from 2021 all packaging will be compostable, reusable or recyclable – and it already offers recycling for any plastic chocolate packaging in stores.

On Brexit, he said bosses “have reviewed the potential impacts from a ‘hard Brexit’ and have contingency plans in place to mitigate potential short-term supply disruptions”.

Investors reacted positively to the results, with shares rising 9.5p to 379.5p.

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