Hotel Chocolat is to open between 10 and 15 stores this year, after reporting a strong start to the year with like-for-like sales up 14% in January.
The chocolate specialist will also open a store-cum-stall at London’s foodie haven Borough Market in the spring, under the brand Rabot Estate - the name of its cocoa plantation in St Lucia. Further details of the venture are yet to be confirmed.
Chief executive Angus Thirlwell said this year’s expansion ambitions will help it hit its target of about 50 shops in the UK. The retailer, which has 40 shops at present, will also carry out several refurbishments, bringing shops up to the standard of its updated store in Victoria, London.
Thirlwell said he did not want to “over-milk” the UK. He said: “There’s a real danger in being ubiquitous that you’re just building something which will have a reversal of fortune at some point.”
Further growth will come from overseas, said Thirlwell. Last year Hotel Chocolat opened its first store in the Middle East in Bahrain, in partnership with local operator Jawad. He said there is scope for 20 to 30 shops in the region. It also opened its first two shops in the US, in Boston, in October, which Thirlwell said are “performing well”.
The retailer is also opening a hotel, called Hotel Chocolat, on its St Lucia plantation.