Hotel Chocolat has ascribed its “strong brand position” and “multichannel model” with driving significant customer acquisition growth across its markets, as the retailer reports a successful Christmas trading season.
Over the 13 weeks to 26 December 2021, total group revenue increased 37% compared to the same period in 2020, and by 63% against 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic took effect.
Total group revenue therefore grew 40% year on year over the first half of the retailer’s financial year, and by 56% on a two-year basis.
In the UK alone revenue grew 38% over the first half, with new customer acquisition campaigns credited with driving a 38% increase in active customers. Co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell says the UK domestic market still has “huge potential” for further growth.
In the USA, Hotel Chocolat is chalking up its 128% revenue growth to its “digital-led strategy”, as the retailer saw its active customer database in the market grow by 119%. Japan similarly experienced growth of 131%, with the launch of the VIP Me loyalty scheme in the market driving up its active customer database by 1,000% to more than 100,000.
“These results demonstrate the Hotel Chocolat brand is connecting with more customers, as we invest continually in new product creativity, driving growth across channels and categories, and in our ‘gentle farming’ initiative supporting cacao-farming families,” Thirlwell says.Hotel Chocolat hails evolution to ‘digital-led brand’ as profits soar
The CEO identified Hotel Chocolat’s ‘Velvetiser’ in-home hot chocolate system as a “star performer” during the period, adding that the majority of the brand’s subscription customers are now coming through its hot chocolate and coffee machines and drinks.
Investing in refreshing the retailer’s key chocolate gift ranges in the period also resulted in an “immediate and strong” sales uplift, he adds, particularly in the higher price-point categories.
When the brand announced its full-year results in October, Hotel Chocolat claimed to be “performing strongly” against its goal to evolve from a “UK store-led brand to globally ambitious digital-led brand”.
“Strong digital growth” more than offset disruption to physical retail over the pandemic, and profit after tax hit £5.7m compared to a loss of £7.5m the previous year.
The business promised to press ahead with innovation this year, including new Velvetiser flavours, enhanced gifting ranges and a new Rabot Estate Coffee range. Some 94% of all Hotel Chocolat product packaging is now ‘widely recyclable’, and the business is on track for 100% recyclability by the end of 2022.
The brand also plans to ramp up investments to enhance its digital customer experience, including improved VIP Me loyalty capabilities in-store launching in the spring. In addition, tech upgrades will be rolled out to support “scalable multichannel growth” and improved CRM and subscriptions.