The upscale chocolatier Hotel Chocolat closed all of its stores in the UK three weeks ago. The company was forced to “start a six pence” by reorganizing the warehouse to make it safe for staff. But it paid off.
“In fact, we sold more Easter eggs than last year,” says boss Angus Thirlwell.
Online sales of Easter eggs are booming as UK consumers turn to the Internet during the coronavirus lockout.
Thorntons also said it has seen “a significant increase in online orders” since the lockout started.
“Demand is four times higher than average – and we have received around one million visitors to our site this week,” they added.
Easter is a big deal in Britain. In 2019, consumers spent £ 1.1 billion on items to celebrate the festival, according to research firm Mintel, of which £ 206 million was spent on Easter eggs alone.
But with the coronavirus lockout preventing families and friends from coming together to celebrate and canceled Easter egg hunting activities, the usual possibilities for buying and sharing traditional treats are limited.
Faced with the sharp increase in online traffic, Thorntons decided to open its website at 9:00 am each day for only one or two hours for customer orders, before closing it.
The Hotel Chocolat takes a different approach. Rather than letting staff waste time searching the warehouse for fulfillment, the chocolate maker has narrowed the range of products people can buy online.
Instead, the retailer created themed batches and prepackaged the items in boxes as they left the production line.
“We have created 30 new products from scratch,” said Thirlwell, adding that customers had been much less demanding about their packages during the lockout than they normally would be.
Discount in supermarkets
In contrast, aisles fully stocked with Easter eggs have been largely delivered to UK supermarkets in the past two weeks, which is unusual for the run-up to Easter weekend.
At Tesco, almost all branded Easter eggs sell for two to one, while Sainsbury’s lifted its limit of three items per customer on Easter eggs several days before easing restrictions on other food items.
The BBC interviewed Tesco and Sainsbury’s about their Easter egg sales, but the supermarkets declined to comment.
Chocolate maker Kinnerton Confectionery makes many of the branded Easter eggs sold in these supermarkets, and demand has also grown online.
“With travel restrictions spanning Easter, consumers have turned to ordering Easter eggs online for home delivery to loved ones,” said Julia Catton, director of marketing and innovation at Zertus UK, the parent company of Kinnerton Confectionery and several other chocolate brands. BBC.
“Some of our major customers have expanded their online range to assist customers, but this has been further hampered by the limitation of home delivery slots in many retailers.”
Kinnerton itself has created a new online store to allow customers of its range of Nomo vegan and “free from” chocolate to place direct orders if they cannot obtain products from supermarkets.
However, according to US market research firm IRI, overall sales of Easter confectionery for the week ending March 28 have declined 17% year over year.
Catton added, “The next few days will be important for Easter egg sales to see if demand improves.”
Other analysts also believe that there will be a significant impact on Easter spending and that not everyone is buying Easter eggs.
Independent retail expert Kate Hardcastle said consumers will have to choose between the must-have and the good: “It’s just not anyone’s priority, and it’s also a cost extra for many families that they simply cannot afford. “
Mintel is conducting a weekly survey to track the impact of the coronavirus on consumer spending in the UK. It says that last week, almost a quarter of UK consumers increased their online shopping.
But in the past seven days, he also found that 46% of consumers have cut back on non-essential expenses.
Despite this, Angus Thirlwell of the Chocolat Hotel says that his company sees consumer behavior never seen before in 27 years of history.
“There are a lot of people who are using online food shopping for the first time. People are asking for help to place orders through online chat and call customer service,” he said.
Hotel Chocolat also sees customer messages that show a change in consumer habits, says Thirlwell: “We see” Here’s something to keep your strength “or” Think about you “messages, sent to key workers, and families saying “Here’s some chocolate so that FaceTime can eat chocolate together”.
“Chocolate plays an important role in maintaining morale.”