Melissa Shackleton, head of marketing, Hotel Chocolat
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Hotel Chocolat is a multi-faceted, dynamic brand with numerous opportunities. Our vertical business model means that we can be developing new strains of cocoa on our cocoa estate at the same time as conjuring up new cocoa cuisine recipes in our restaurants and also leading the way in chocolate innovation at our factory. Without doubt the biggest opportunity however comes via our customers – by constantly listening to them we can use their guidance to lead us in the right direction in terms of trends and buying behaviour.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Being part of such an entrepreneurial, fast paced business means that I am continually juggling multiple projects. We are quick to jump onto emerging trends, innovating and turning things around quickly to react to customer demand. As a ‘completer/finisher’ this doesn’t always sit comfortably with me but it’s exciting and keeps us all on our toes, ensuring we never become staid or complacent. On the other hand, a large part of my job is ensuring that we retain a sense of equilibrium, staying true to the core part of our business, making sure it is stable and delivering as it should. The challenge lies in balancing the two.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
There have been times in my career where I should have listened more strongly to my gut instinct. Instinct is one of the most powerful tools we have and it is important to speak up, even if you are in the minority. It’s important to stay true to what you believe in.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
People have an incredible emotional connection to chocolate. Whilst the digital world provides a great deal of ease and speed to our busy lives, many of our guests love to experience our physical stores. Meeting our passionate team members, trying chocolates and soaking up the vast knowledge and enthusiasm of our staff isn’t something that can be done via the internet. Not yet, anyway! We’ve built upon the huge success of our physical stores with The School of Chocolate, a concept currently available in London and Leeds, which enables people to get beneath the wrapper and learn even more about chocolate. It also means that out of hours, our stores remain busy.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
I believe strongly in a more seamless, natural integration between high street and digital. Stores will not just be for shopping, but spaces that customers can relax in, almost an extension of their homes. I envisage smaller pop-up stores and also larger flagship entities that can be shopped virtually through the window when closed. Far from dying, in my opinion the high street is on the brink of a revolution – combining the very best of high street and digital.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
Without doubt. Whilst people often want to touch and see products before buying, little beats the ease of purchase from the palm of your hand. This is where brand trust comes in. If a customer believes in a brand and trusts them, they are more likely to shop virtually – particularly when gifting.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
I admire NotontheHighStreet.com. They do incredibly well housing a huge variety of products for every type of person. I’m also a big fan of retailers that have late last orders and delivery the next day. This can sometimes sway where I shop, rather than the brand.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
I’m a huge fan of sport and have always harboured a secret urge to be a sport newsreader or football manager.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I’m really proud of how Hotel Chocolat has grown and how I have grown with the brand, but there is always room to grow. I rate myself a fair 7!