Hotel Chocolat targets up to 50 new UK shops amid high street boom

The boss of Hotel Chocolat has said the retailer is targeting up to 50 new UK stores after strong high street trade.

Angus Thirlwell, chief executive officer and co-founder, told the PA news agency that the retailer hopes to open the new stores within five years as part of its growth plans.

It came after an update to investors sent shares in the company firmly higher.

Mr Thirlwell told PA: “We opened two new locations which traded through the second half of the year – in Norwich and Nottingham – and both have been huge successes.

“These cities were calling out for the brand and the evidence has been positive, so we know there is really good scope for further expansion.

“There are locations across the country where we would like more stores. We think, as a target, we can be looking towards up to 50 sites over the next three to five years.”

It came as the company recorded a “new record” in Christmas sales across its UK store estate.

Hotel Chocolat told shareholders that UK and Ireland stores witnessed like-for-like growth of 10% over the nine weeks to Christmas Day, compared with a year earlier.

However, online revenues were lower against the previous year as shoppers favoured visiting high street stores and the company had a “deliberately lower marketing spend” versus the previous year.

The retailer said it has continued to trade in line with market expectations as a whole but remains “cautious” about consumer sentiment ahead of key seasonal events, such as Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Mr Thirlwell added: “We have grown Hotel Chocolat by 65% over the period since the start of the pandemic, adapting to some of the most difficult economic conditions on record.

“Taking a year, over full-year 2023, to sharpen up our operating model is the right thing to do, before we embark on further pursuit of the multiple growth opportunities ahead for our brand.”

Shares in the business moved 12.1% higher to 208p.