Bosses of confectionery chain Hotel Chocolat have unveiled plans to create 200 jobs following a 'surge in online demand' during the coronavirus pandemic.

The chocolatier said customers switching online during the lockdown helped to mitigate the impact of closing its store estate.

How did sales do during lockdown?

Hotel Chocolat said digital sales surged to more than 200 per cent year-on-year growth in the quarter to June 30, as shoppers bought Easter and Mother’s Day gifts online.

It said sales subscriptions also jumped by 47 per cent in the quarter against the same period last year.

When did Hotel Chocolat close its stores?

The retailer closed all of its UK stores for 12 weeks between March 22 and June 15, when non-essential retailers were given the green light to reopen by the Prime Minister.

Its factory in Cambridgeshire was also temporarily closed for eight weeks until May as its was adapted to meet Covid-secure health and safety guidance.

How many stores have reopened?

Hotel Chocolat said 119 of its 125 UK stores are now open for business, with sales at its High Street sites performing more strongly than those in city “city centre” locations.

Whilst total sales from stores are lower against the same period last year, digital growth “remains very strong” and group sales since the end of June are “in line with management expectations”.

Total sales in the six months to June 28 fell 14 per cent to £45 million after it was impacted by the closure of stores, it said.

The group said it expects pre-tax profit for the past year to be in line with expectations.

What have the bosses of Hotel Chocolat said?

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive officer, said: “I’ve been hugely impressed by how our team have responded, culturally, professionally and ethically during the pandemic.

“The acceleration of change in the retail landscape has galvanised us to speed up our plans and investments in the opportunities we were already pursuing.

“Online, our brand is now set to a significantly faster growth trajectory, delivering gifts, subscriptions and household indulgence.

“Some of this is attributable to Covid-accelerated change, but new concept launches, and digital enhancements have also supported growth.”

Where will the new jobs be advertised when they become available?

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