// Hotel Chocolat Easter sales surge online but not enough to offset store closures
// CEO Angus Thirlwell says “plans are in progress” for the retailer to reopen its stores
// Hotel Chocolat also secured a new £35m loan with Lloyds Bank
Hotel Chocolat posted a surge in online sales prior to Easter, but this failed to fully offset the closure of its stores in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The chocolate retailer said it was encouraged by the “agility and resilience” of its business model amid the lockdown and was continuing to explore further avenues for online sales growth.
Hotel Chocolat closed all its retail stores when the government-mandated lockdown was introduced in late March, with non-essential retailers told to shut up shop.
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Chief executive Angus Thirlwell 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”.
Hotel Chocolat said closing for the lockdown has had a “material impact” on trading, prompting the firm to take on 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 would 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.
“The financial headroom gives us greater resilience against ongoing disruption and enables us to move onwards with longer-term growth opportunities,” Thirlwell said.
“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.”
with PA Wires