Hotel Chocolat have announced that after a strong first half, sales and profits tumbled in the second six months of its financial year as lockdown was imposed.
Overall annual sales for the year to 28 June rose by 3% to £136.2m. Revenue grew 14% in the first six months before sinking by 14% in the second half.
Lockdown meant Hotel Chocolat’s physical shops were closed for Easter, one of its key trading periods. It reported a £6.4m pre-tax loss compared with a £10.9m profit in the previous year.
The company said that it had been able to react quickly to the changing circumstances.
When its shops – which typically generate 70% of sales in the second half of its financial year – were closed two weeks before Easter, it recalled its inventory to its distribution centres and was able to grow sales online and through partners who sell its goods.
But Angus Thirlwell, Hotel Chocolat’s co-founder and chief executive, said that since reopening its shops, “we are seeing a very patchy picture”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme that while tourist spots such as Shrewsbury, Hitchin, Truro and Chichester were doing well, “the places that are tougher are city centres, transit and tourist-based locations… which is no surprise”.
“All we’re trying to do is disentangle the very short-term kind of impact from the more longer-term shift towards online,” he added.
Asked whether the shift from High Street shops to online was permanent or not, and whether retailers should be changing their business models, Mr Thirlwell said: “I think there is going to be a lasting legacy from this which is that five years of what was going to happen anyway has just happened in five months.”
He said it could have implications on “where we should have our Hotel Chocolat locations”, but the company was also trying to “avoid doing knee-jerk reactions”.