• Hotel Chocolat pre-tax profit up 28% to 11.2m in 26 weeks to December 25
  • Half-year sales up 14% (12% on a proforma basis) to £62.5m
  • 10 new stores contributed to 4% year-on-year sales growth
  • Boss Thirlwell said “increased digital transactions” sweetened Christmas sales

Hotel Chocolat delivered a profit and sales jump in its half-year, sweetened by Christmas sales, new stores and an increase in online transactions. 

The chocolate specialist grew pre-tax profit by 28% to 11.2m in the 26 weeks to December 25, while sales increased 14% to £62.5m.

On a proforma basis – accounting for the retailer’s acquisition of Hotel Chocolat Estates Limited – sales increased 12%.

Hotel Chocolat’s bottom line was boosted by an increase in online transactions and a jump in customer numbers over Christmas, when sales spiked 16.2%.

It said its newly launched and faster website is driving improved conversion.

Overall digital revenues rose 11%, but subscription club sales dipped 6% as recruitment activities were scaled back during the construction of the new site. 

Hotel Chocolat, which floated on London’s AIM in May 2016, added that factory investment resulted in improved gross margin during the period. 

Period of progress

Chief executive and co-founder Angus Thirlwell hailed “another period of good progress” for the company.

He said: “The critical Christmas period was very successful, helped by good availability, popular and innovative new ranges and significantly increased digital transactions.

”We continue to make good headway against our three key strategic objectives of opening more stores, improving our digital capability and increasing our production capacity.”

The retailer opened 10 new stores during the period, which contributed to a 4% year-on-year sales lift.

Its 93-unit portfolio currently includes 10 shop and café format stores, although the business plans to open an 11th in Glasgow.

Looking ahead, the boss said there are “strong plans in place for the key spring seasons of Mother’s Day and Easter”, adding that he is “confident of further progress”.

Hotel Chocolat’s pre-tax profit almost trebled to £8.2m in the year to June 26, 2016, despite incurring £2.6m in exceptional charges relating to its listing on AIM and the acquisition of Hotel Chocolat Estates Limited in Saint Lucia.