Strong Yorkshire trading boosts Hotel Chocolat

Luxury chocolate maker Hotel Chocolat said its Leeds stores have seen strong growth since students returned to the city and its York designer outlet is "storming ahead" as more people opt to travel by car during the coronavirus crisis.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat

The group said it has also seen strong trading in Yorkshire market towns as more people work from home and shop locally.

The firm referred to a golden triangle of Leeds, York and Harrogate and said it has seen "terrific" loyalty from Yorkshire online shoppers.

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Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said: "Both our Leeds locations have ticked up markedly because students are coming back. That's breathing a lot of life back into the city centre.

"Our biggest location in the UK is in Leeds city centre and we're proud of that. It's going great guns and we've got one of our best teams there.

"We also have some really good market towns with people increasingly working from home and that's bringing a lot of extra prosperity to certain localities.

"The York designer outlet village that we're in is storming ahead."

He said this was partly due to people being able to safely drive to the site and park up in the open air.

"These open air parking sites are clearly prized above other locations," he added.

He said the group has seen a very resilient pattern in Yorkshire despite the pandemic.

"We refer to Yorkshire as the golden triangle of Leeds, York and Harrogate," he said.

"That prosperity and the fact that Yorkshire people are prepared to pay for quality has always come through."

Hotel Chocolat has been on the lookout for new stores in picturesque Yorkshire market towns, but the coronavirus crisis has halted new store openings for now.

"We've always got our eye on new Yorkshire store openings, but to do anything in the next few months wouldn't be the best thing," said Mr Thirlwell.

The group has also seen strong online trading in Yorkshire

"Yorkshire shopping online has been hugely strong. We have seen terrific loyalty from shoppers in the region," said Mr Thirlwell.

The firm said revenue rose 3 per cent to £136m in the year to June 28. First half sales jumped 14 per cent, but were down 14 per cent in the second half due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its UK stores, which typically generate over 70 per cent of second half revenues, were closed for 12 weeks including the key Easter period.

However, revenue growth from digital channels accelerated, helping to reduce the overall decline.

Mr Thirlwell said: “The events of 2020 have challenged all of us, but also brought out the best in us, ethically, competitively, and professionally, making us better equipped to face the future.

“Whilst uncertainty will continue for all of us in the coming year, our pipeline of potential growth opportunities has never been stronger. We are working hard to anticipate potential trading scenarios for the year ahead and are planning prudently to be ready to adapt quickly and effectively as the situation evolves.

“I am confident that the strategic progress we have achieved over the past year will build a stronger business in the medium-term with greater growth, profitability and brand appeal.

“Finally, I would like to thank our colleagues for their hard work during the year. I am incredibly proud of how Hotel Chocolat has adapted to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and I would like to also thank our customers for their continued loyalty, and our partners for their collaboration.”