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Hotel Chocolat ramps up foreign expansion plans after serving up tasty profits

Hotel Chocolat is ramping up its foreign expansion plans after defying a downturn on Britain’s high streets to serve up tasty annual results.
The chocolatier, which began as an online subscription service but now has dozens of shops across the UK, will open its first shop in the US on New York’s Lexington Avenue and has linked up with new franchise partners in Japan and Scandinavia.
Angus Thirlwell, who started Hotel Chocolat in 1993 and remains its chief executive, said the export drive was part of the company’s ambition to become the “global leader in premium chocolate".
He said: “We’re not going to do that by just sticking to East Anglia so we just need to get out there and get our startups in those countries really working and growing.”
Hotel Chocolat posted a 13pc hike in pre-tax profits to ?12.7m for the year to July 1 after revenues rose 11pc to ?116m.
The new foreign outposts come on top of two existing stores in Denmark, which have been transferred to the new Scandinavian partner, another in Hong Kong, and the brand’s Rabot cocoa plantation and hotel in St Lucia.
Hotel Chocolat ramps up foreign expansion plans after serving up tasty profits

Angus Thirlwell said Hotel Chocolat's shops were still performing well despite a high street downturn 
The retail sector has witnessed hundreds of stores closures and several insolvencies this year amid a squeeze on consumer spending and a shift to online shopping but Mr Thirlwell said Hotel Chocolat’s shops were still performing as well as they had in the past. 
He said: “Were not seeing anything making us want to change out plans.
“The way we look at stores is as a physical space nourished and supported by a database and a multichannel model - it’s not just a transactional box where we stick stuff on shelves and people come and buy it and pay at a till.”
New initiatives including “chocolate lock-ins”, where stores are closed in the evening for private tasting sessions, were bolstering revenues, he added.
The company suffered from higher costs last year including pressure from the weak pound, which makes imported ingredients more expensive.
But it managed to widen its margins thanks to greater economies of scale and manufacturing investments including a ?25,000 tempering machine that allows the company to speed up the production of some products.
Shares in Hotel Chocolat were up 0.7pc at 340p in afternoon trade. 
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