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Montezuma’s chocolates planning to open four new stores a year | Business

Artisan chocolate brand Montezuma’s is to defy the gloom engulfing the high street as a result of coronavirus by opening more shops and hiring new staff.

It has six branches in the south-east of England, including Brighton, Chichester and Winchester, and is planning two four new openings every 12 months, typically in market towns, over the next five years.

The brand, known for its distinctive dark chocolate, ethical sourcing and eco-packaging, also sells online and through major retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Ocado. It will be stocked in Tesco for the first time from September.

Montezuma’s Christmas tree  for 2020.

Montezuma’s Christmas tree for 2020. Photograph: Montezuma’s

“Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, 20% of our business was generated in our retail stores so having to close them as a result of Covid had a dramatic impact,” said the company’s managing director, Bruce Alexander.

“But sales held up very well during Covid despite the closure of our shops and the business is now experiencing growth of more than 30%, with sales set to reach £10m this year. We want to remain visible on the high street, which we think has a very positive future.”

Contracts have been signed for two new shops to open before the end of the year, Alexander said, helping to showcase the new Christmas range. Each will involve hiring an extra 10 employees.

“We may not be offering tastings and samplings, but we believe consumers enjoy coming into a shop,” Alexander added. “This year Christmas shopping could be extended by, say, three months, because people have more time to plan.”

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While chocolate may not be considered an essential food, “it has certainly helped people cheer themselves up – and to treat friends and loved ones – during this difficult time”, he said.

The company was founded in 2000 by Helen and Simon Pattinson, who sold a majority stake to private equity group Inverleith LLP in 2018.

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