Hotel Chocolat has temporarily closed its doors in the UK in response to the coronavirus crisis, but the retailer stressed it was business as usual online.
Co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell said he took the decision to shut the 125 stores to keep staff and customers safe during the ongoing pandemic.
He added the business was geared up to switch fully to online ordering, with free delivery being offered for orders of £20 or more to ease the transition.
High street non-food retailers have been hit hard by the dramatic decline in footfall in town centres, shopping centres and railway stations this month as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Shares in Hotel Chocolat have nosedived by more than 40% since the start of the month (March 2020) as panic selling has seen investors flee equity markets around the world.
Last week, the business said in a trading update group retail revenues had fallen by 5% in March year on year.
In response, Hotel Chocolat raised £22m from its existing shareholders, including Angus Thirlwell, and other institutional investors to shore up its balance sheet in anticipation stores would have to be shut.
The business added the outbreak would affect an important sales period that included Mother’s Day and Easter, which accounts for about 12% of annual group revenues.
“We are geared up to switch fully to online ordering and have added free delivery too via hotelchocolat.com,” Thirlwell said in a statement today (23 March 2020).
“More phone lines and remote customer support is being mobilised to make it easier, particularly for some of our elderly customers who we know don’t do online, to get what they want delivered to their door.
“We hope these measures will ensure Hotel Chocolat can keep serving the community whilst keeping everyone as safe as possible until we’re through this. Thanks for all the support and lovely messages and let’s adapt and innovate together to get through this.”