Hotel Chocolat has secured its first store in Ireland as the retailer ramps up efforts to expand outside the UK.
Retail Week can reveal the chocolatier has secured a 1,100 sq ft site in Dundrum town centre, in Dublin, as the latest location for its fast-growing shop and café format.
Hotel Chocolat is also plotting a move to take the concept into retail park locations across the UK after instructing “a number” of commercial property agents to run the rule over potential sites.
Its first Irish store, situated next to Zara and Hugo Boss, is set to launch in October.
News of the move comes as Hotel Chocolat, which currently operates three stores outside of the UK, in Denmark, mulls further international expansion.
Hotel Chocolat co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell told Retail Week last October that the business had received “credible approaches” from international companies looking to take the brand overseas.
It has already linked up with Channel Islands-based franchise partner Sandpiper, which opened Hotel Chocolat’s first store in Gibraltar last year.
Thirlwell told Retail Week: “We trade very well in Belfast and we wanted to study the Republic of Ireland. We started researching it, evaluated a number of opportunities and have now decided to take the step of doing it.
“We’ll build on some of the international learnings we’ve acquired from Copenhagen because we’re getting better and better at executing overseas.
“The combination of those two things drawn together is what made Ireland a compelling proposition for us.”
Simon Betty, director of retail for Ireland at property landlord Hammerson, said: “Hotel Chocolat is a perfect fit for Dundrum, where it will trade alongside other premium brands.
“Since taking ownership of Dundrum last year, we have worked to leverage our relationships with domestic and international brands in order to ensure an exciting and fresh retail mix, and this latest debut is testament to the success of that strategy.”
Thirlwell declined to put a target on how many stores Hotel Chocolat could open in Ireland, but admitted “multiple sites” were possible.
And he described its Irish launch as “a stepping stone” to more international stores.
“You can see the build-up in our confidence,” he said.
“We are getting good traction and making good progress in Copenhagen. It’s a very competitive market with high labour rates and a lot of local competition, but we are still winning.
“We are looking at places where people spend their leisure time and places where people gather as places where Hotel Chocolat can work”
Hotel Chocolat co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell
“It’s all incremental towards building a more sizable, international aspect to the brand, but we don’t need to rush that because we still have loads of headroom left in the UK.”
Retail park plan
On the potential push into retail parks, Thirlwell added: “We are looking at places where people spend their leisure time and places where people gather as places where Hotel Chocolat can work.
“We are confident about the appeal of the café and shop format in good quality retail parks.”
Hotel Chocolat operates more than 80 stores in the UK and grew sales “ahead of expectations” in the year to June 25, as revenues jumped 12% to £104m.
The business, which floated on AIM last year, will unveil its preliminary results on September 27.