// Hotel Chocolat looks to reopen high street and self-standing independent stores first
// The retailer is set to launch a trial which will see it reopen some stores as takeaway locations
Hotel Chocolat has said it is preparing to reopen high street and self-standing independent stores first, ahead of a trial to reopen a number of stores as takeaway locations from next week.
Co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell said the confectionery retailer would open five or six stores next week as takeaway cafes.
He said the stores will mainly be located in London as well as other “thriving communities”, and will have a limited offering of products, such as ice creams and milkshakes.
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“We’ll open some stores as takeaway cafes, not chocolate shops. We’re opening up five or six locations next week to get a read on how our planned safe way of working actually performs in real life,” Thirlwell said.
“Then we can hone that model so that, when we get to the following week, we’ll have the learnings of how to operate.”
Thirlwell confirmed that its business will be led by government advice, but he laid out the retailer’s phased plan for a reopening of its estate.
High street and independent self-standing stores have been chosen as the first Hotel Chocolat sites that would reopen, with stores in transit hubs and shopping centres likely to be the last.
“When we’re given the green light, we can swing into action, but we want to be as ready as we can possibly be. What we’ve modelled is that some locations will be more complicated than others to reopen.
“So, for example, in mass transit locations like train stations, there’s a lot of things to consider. They’re probably the last ones to reopen. Along with big shopping centres as well, there’s a lot of moving there for the mall operators to get in place first.
“We’re going to start off with classic high street and independent self-standing locations in communities where they want us to open, we want to open and where we’re allowed to be open and can do it safely.”
Hotel Chocolat closed all its retail stores when the government-mandated lockdown was introduced in late March, with non-essential retailers told to shut stores.
The retailer 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.
It 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.