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The luxury brand Hotel Chocolat, which helped lift the pandemic gloom during the dark days of lockdown, is seeking to extend the surge in sales through its subscription service.

Chocolate lovers have signed up en masse for regular deliveries to boost morale and spoil their loved ones. Subscribers pay between £ 20-30 a month and membership has grown by over 300% over the past year. In the meantime, gift sales have more than tripled.

The British group, which started as an online business almost three decades ago, adopted a chocolate subscription model in 1997 to retain customers keen to receive regular deliveries of its products. The service supported activity during the Covid-19 shutdowns.

“Chocolate is a happy product and, boy, do we need a little happiness,” said co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell. “We have seen so many lovely, heartwarming and loving messages sent from one group of people to another. Our role in making those connections is a privilege.

Subscription models have proliferated during the pandemic, with hawkers of everything from toilet paper to pet care reaping the rewards. GlobalData estimates that the UK recipe box market grew by 347% between 2017 and 2020 to reach £ 578million. The Royal Mail subscription box market report says the UK market is estimated at nearly £ 2 billion in four years.

For Hotel Chocolat, founded in 1993, the focus on online retailing allowed the company to profit from a global e-commerce boom sparked by a pandemic as lockdowns were imposed last year. . Its shares have risen 17.8% in the past 12 months.

The increased demand for its premium product has bolstered its financial strength to allow the chocolatier to expand its physical presence and accelerate some of its growth plans. In Japan, he opened a store a month during the pandemic when rivals, such as Godiva, “fell silent.”

Our competitors “hid under a rock during the pandemic”, which allowed the Hotel Chocolat to jump into preferential locations, explains Thirlwell. The group now has 22 sites across Japan.

Hotel Chocolat’s products do not bear a fair trade designation, but the company says it has sought to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 among its cocoa suppliers on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. The company plans to launch a “soft agriculture” charter this year to “accelerate” its program of committed ethics.

“We have clearly defined our goal,” says Thirwell. “We are not as essential as a vegetable, bread or milk, but we fulfill a purpose. We’re not just a frivolous thing that no one needs.

This is an article in a blog series that explores the effects of the pandemic on people, communities and businesses around the world.

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