After two years of stalled bricks-and-mortar operations due to Covid-19, Swiss chocolatier Lindt launched its first new store in Australia in two years at DFO Homebush last month – bringing its new, global in-store offering Down Under for the first time. The shop features the brand’s new in-store design, which uses mirrors, wood, copper and natural light to create a welcoming, modern environment. Plus, while the store will feature the brand’s usual pick-and-mix offer, where customers
tomers can create their own, personalised chocolate gift boxes, the Homebush store is also the first site in Australia to offer the business’ Crema Gelata, something Lindt Australia CEO Michael Schai calls “liquid, frozen Lindt chocolate”. “[The new store concept] was something we designed in 2020, but never had a chance to roll out until now,” Schai told Inside Retail. Lindt has 20 stores across Australia, and approximately 500 worldwide. Schai said Lindt’s bricks-and-mortar strategy revolves around three store concepts: the cafe, the outlet, and the boutique. However, moving forward, Lindt will be pivoting towards cutting back on cafes and launching more outlet and boutique stores. “Our main two formats are outlets, which are at places like DFOs, and boutiques, which will be in a smaller footprint, and offer fresh chocolate and chocolate labs. They will be a much more premium experience,” Schai explained. “It is our one-stop-shop gifting destination. Boutiques have a lot of hampers, and you can personalise your own packaging and message for the recipient.” The Homebush store is the first of Lindt’s next-generation outlet centres, and in a few months, the brand will be launching its second boutique store in the Australian market at Warringah Mall in Sydney. Lindt’s first boutique store launched at Macquarie Centre in North Ryde, in Sydney, just before the pandemic kicked off and prompted Lindt to shut down its store network. [SUBHEAD] The great chocolate boom During the last two years, much of retail saw its in-store offer shuttered during the pandemic. And while Schai admitted that Lindt was a bit slow off the mark in having a fully-fledged online offer – its e-commerce site only launched in 2021 – its wholesale partnerships with retailers like Coles and Woolworths carried it through the pandemic. “People really took to chocolate consumption,” Schai said. “In a regular year, the chocolate market grows between two and three per cent. During the last two years, it has grown 10 per cent. “People have been wanting to treat themselves, and we’ve seen that trend globally. Being involved with grocery stores helped us compensate for our retail stores.” But the battle is still not quite won. While Lindt’s outlet stores are trading up on pre-Covid levels, the business’ CBD locations are still behind where they were in 2019. “Places where the stores are dependent on tourists are still down, but we can see all stores recovering well,” Schai said. “Week by week, I can almost track the business’ recovery just by looking at the different stores’ trade. We’re recovering quite nicely.” [SUBHEAD] ‘We were not prepared’ The last ingredient in Lindt’s recovery is its belated online offer. Schai said it wasn’t that the business was ignoring online, but that it was working out how to ensure delivering its products wouldn’t result in a customer receiving a box of melted chocolate. “One of our concerns was around the quality of the chocolate, particularly in a country like Australia, with so many different climates,” Schai explained. “But Covid-19 really accelerated everything, and now if you put in an order anywhere in Australia, you can get chocolate within 72 hours.” Lindt uses its network of stores as micro-fulfilment centres, so if an order comes in from the Sunshine Coast, its Brisbane team will pick and pack the goods, ensuring a smaller supply chain to the customer. The chocolatier tried to do a soft launch of its online offer just before Easter 2021, but underestimated how many Australians would shop online following the pandemic and was caught off guard. “We were not prepared,” Schai laughed. “We didn’t really communicate the scale of our offer, and everybody was looking for chocolate online. We were completely overwhelmed, and had to get people to help us pick and pack all the orders.” While the beginning of its journey online was difficult, Lindt has now found its rhythm online. Schai explained that buying chocolate online is popular in the lead up to certain holidays – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for example. For the rest of the year, online simply serves as another channel to sell on, but one that Lindt is keen to explore more moving forward.