Specialist luxury retailer Hotel Chocolat is to open stores overseas and bolster its board as it pursues growth.

International expansion will begin in the Gulf – Dubai is likely to be the first market – and Ernst & Young is advising. Shops will be run with a local franchise partner yet to be decided.

Hotel Chocolat’s only overseas market is the US, which is served by a dedicated e-tail site. Hotel Chocolat co-founder and managing director Angus Thirlwell said that, if the Gulf stores work well, the model will be replicated in other international markets.

Ernst & Young head of retail Gavin George said the Gulf was a good market for expanding UK retailers because of its strong economy, expatriate community and the extent of travel to and from the UK.

As Hotel Chocolat expands, Thirlwell is looking for someone to take up the new role of sales and merchanding director, which will be a main board position.

“They will be the master merchant in the business,” he said. “They’ll provide real focus, head all channels and bring roundness to the top team.” Headhunter Odgers is conducting the search.

Hotel Chocolat has 28 stores and generated revenues of£39 million last year.