30 Apr Luxury Chocolates
Luxury chocolates were originally only available in the UK from from continental manufacturers like Lindt or Suchard and very occasionally you would see unusual brands like Laura Secord from Canada. Chocoholics looking for chocolates that were a bit different would have to search out for a local delicatessen or travel to places like Selfridges or Harrods in London.
In the late seventies there was something of a revolution when holidaymakers returning from their continental breaks started to ask for the delicious truffles and luxury praline chocolates that they had eaten while they were on holiday. Numerous small Belgian chocolate shops started to spring up all over the UK and many were run by well to do ladies whose husbands funded their ‘hobby’ as an alternative to part time work. The shops were often very small – literally just big enough for a chiller cabinet to store the chocolates, some shelves to display boxes and standing room for just a few customers. They would carefully pack up small ‘ballotins’ of delicious handmade luxury Belgian chocolates, carefully bow it and perhaps decorate it with silk flowers. The shops were often situated in secondary positions and this coupled with the high cost of the chocolates and low sales meant that many of them failed after a short time trading.
Some French and Belgian chocolate manufacturers tried to develop their sales by opening up shops in locations all over the UK. Jeff de Brugges were an example, in Frances they had thousands of shops but in the UK they failed miserably to make any headway. Even such household names as Godiva and Leonardis found that although they could develop good sales in the big London/Birmingham/Manchester department stores they could not replicate this in small kiosks in the same way they did in Belgium.
Although the small kiosks in general failed they did achieve one good thing, they increased the demand for quality Belgian chocolates to the point where the supermarkets realised the potential, but that’s another story…