Haigh’s Chocolates will open its third Sydney store in the first week of March, ahead of Easter Sunday, which falls on March 27 this year. The family-owned chocolate maker and retailer’s 15th store Australia-wide will open its doors in Chatswood Chase, on Sydney’s north shore. The move has been guided by sales rises from Haigh’s Chocolates existing Sydney stores, in the Strand Arcade and the Queen Victoria Building.
“We opened our second and now flagship Sydney store in the CBD’s Queen Victoria Building just three years ago in response to the incredible support that we received for our fine chocolate,” said chief executive, Alister Haigh.
“This support gave us confidence and drove our decision to expand again, this time over the Bridge, on the North Shore. We chose Chatswood Chase Sydney because we believe it to be one of the best shopping centres in metropolitan Sydney. It fits well with what we, at Haigh’s, look for in a quality retail setting.”
The store will have subtle differences from the existing stores, with the company selecting a new design team after their previous designer entered retirement.“It’s always good to have a fresh pair of eyes and ideas,” Haigh told Inside Retail Weekly.
The Chatswood store will also be a trial for new concepts, which will be used to simplify future shop fitouts. “This is sort of a trial on some of those concepts to see how they work and look and are received by our customers.” However, any future retail locations will have to satisfy Haigh’s criteria and the manufacturing output. “It’s really a question of manufacturing capacity,” Haigh said. “Because we make all our own products, we have to tailor our retail growth to our production capacity.”
Having complete control of supply, from manufacturing through to retail trade, comes with both pros and cons according to Haigh. “It’s an advantage, but it’s also a disadvantage because you’ve got to find the capital to expand manufacturing as well as retail.”
With the existing stores already experiencing volume growth, Haigh said in 2016 the business will be investigating new machinery to provide a “quantum leap” in production.
Haigh’s Chocolates enjoys its biggest sales spike at Easter, followed by Christmas and Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the next largest sales event, having overtaken Father’s Day, Haigh said. However, Valentine’s Day sales are effected by the weather and the day of the week. This year, the romantic occasion falls on a Sunday, so there won’t be any after-work rush to take advantage of in CBD stores. “Hopefully they will remember a day or two before Valentine’s Day instead of leaving it to the last minute like they normally do,” Haigh said.
Extra cash registers and staff are introduced to cope with the increase in store traffic during these peak sales periods for Haigh’s. Stores use a two-person per customer operation to try and process customers as quickly as possible, with experienced staff supporting less-experienced, seasonal casuals.
“What we’d like to do is train our customers not to leave it to the last minute,” joked Haigh. “It hasn’t happened for the 40 years I’ve been in business, so I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next 40!
“Some of our customers actually like the buzz of the crowds and the queues.”
Haigh’s Chocolates’ online store launched just before Christmas in 2014 and has experienced good growth over the last 14 months, in line with expectations, Haigh said. What the business has been surprised by is that online sales are just as affected by the weather as instore sales are. One would assume that customers at home in air conditioning would shop differently to those traipsing past a store in the Australian summer heat, or rain. “We’ve been surprised that it has been almost as weather-affected in this month as our shops have,” Haigh said.
Haigh said he’d been pleasantly surprised at where orders are coming from. “It is fulfilling what we were hoping, to a degree, being able to supply customers around Australia without having a store there. “Still, a lot of customers would like a store in their city, but that remains to be seen whether the sums add up for that or not.”
Online orders are dispatched from the South Australian distribution centre and the brand does not offer click and collect. “The demand for click and collect would probably be a peak times, and so that would just sort of compound our crowding issues in our stores,” Haigh said.
However he did raise the possibility “maybe down the track” of working in conjunction with other stores that don’t experience high traffic at Christmas and Easter as collection points for online orders. “They might welcome people coming in and collecting Haigh’s Chocolates in their stores – it might help their businesses a bit. Who knows down the track, but there is nothing in the pipeline for that.”
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