Hotel Chocolat to quadruple the size of this Yorkshire store as its Leeds store prepares for TV fame

Yorkshire demand for Hotel Chocolat’s luxury chocolate is so strong that the firm is moving to a new store in Harrogate that will quadruple its size.
Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel ChocolatAngus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat
Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat

The firm also exclusively revealed to the Yorkshire Post that its Leeds site in Boar Lane is to star in a new TV documentary series about Hotel Chocolat for a major UK broadcaster. Further details will be announced by the broadcaster later this year.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said: “We have seen strong demand from Yorkshire customers across the board. Both online and store channels are performing really well in Yorkshire.

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“We’ve selected Yorkshire to have one of the very few upgrades that we’re doing this year. We’re quadrupling the size of our Harrogate store which is on the prime street in Harrogate (James Street) and we’re moving across the road. That’s a vote of confidence in Yorkshire if I’ve ever heard it.”

He said that Harrogate has always been a top performer and that a lot of its customers wanted to see the full Hotel Chocolat range.

Over in Leeds, the Boar Lane store at Trinity Leeds will play a starring role in the new documentary series.

Mr Thirlwell said: “Leeds is doing really well. We’ve got two stores in Leeds, the large one on Boar Lane and the little, cute one which was our original one in Leeds (Albion Place).

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“We’re filming a new documentary series about Hotel Chocolat and I can exclusively reveal that a substantial chunk of the filming will be carried out in Leeds.

“I can’t actually say who it is yet, but it’s a major UK channel. It’s a major coup and we’ll be doing some of the filming in November, December and January.”

He added that the rationale behind the store extension in Harrogate is that shoppers want to be able to buy the full Hotel Chocolat range.

“As we’ve now become a multi-category brand, always powered by cacao and chocolate, it means that we need more space to be able to display all the exciting stuff that we’ve got,” he said.

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“For example, the Velvetiser range - we’ve got three machines, we’ve now got 20 flavours and we are launching more all the time. That needs a big chunk of display space.

“We’ve got our new coffee range which has a machine called the Podster which is coming later this calendar year. That all takes space and needs enough air to be able to tell its story properly.”

He was speaking as Hotel Chocolat reported strong trading thanks to a switch to online trading at a time when the pandemic lockdowns closed its store estate.

The firm, which has seen a “storming” performance from its Yorkshire stores after they reopened, said revenue rose 21 per cent to £165m in the year to June 27.

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Over two thirds (70 per cent) of its sales were generated through digital, partners and continuity products after its stores were closed or disrupted for six months of the period due to lockdowns.

Pre-tax profits before exceptional costs jumped from £2.4m to £10.1m, which was ahead of market expectations.

The group said it has evolved from a UK store-led brand to a globally ambitious, digital-led brand with a broad range of luxury cacao products

Key growth drivers were the success of its Velvetiser in-home hot chocolate system, which is driving high lifetime-value subscriptions and strong loyalty, with a 31 per cent increase in its active customer database to 1.8m.

The group has also seen strong growth in the US and Japan.

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Capital investments increased production capacity by 66 per cent to support £250m of chocolate sales a year.

Following a year when strong digital growth more than offset significant retail disruption, sales growth accelerated further from April with the UK re-opening of all channels.

The group said that trading is in line with management expectations for the first 13 weeks of the new financial year.

Mr Thirlwell said: “These results show we have now evolved from a UK store-led brand to a globally ambitious digital-led brand.

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“FY21 was a year where Hotel Chocolat improved on many fronts. Our digital and subscription-continuity models surged ahead and our global aspirations racked up more strong growth and progress.

“The continued challenges of Covid-19 pushed us to accelerate many of our existing plans and strategic initiatives, helping to strengthen our financial position, improve our multichannel capability, deepen customer engagement and loyalty, and accelerate the rate of product innovation, whilst continuing to make good progress in our two new and sizeable markets of the USA and Japan.”

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