Thursday, January 21, 2021

[Not So Sweet] Godiva to Close All North American Stores

Beloved chocolatier Godiva announced late Wednesday that they will be closing all of their brick and mortar locations in North America.  The closures will affect nearly 130 retail stores and cafes in the region including 115 in the United States.  The company indicated that affected locations will all cease operations as Godiva by the end of the first quarter of 2021 either through sales or closures. 

In Atlanta, Godiva operates a total of three shops: Lenox Square in Buckhead, Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody and North Point Mall in Alpharetta.  The Lenox shop, which opened in 2011, relocated from a smaller space on the mall's first floor where Prada is located today.    Sources close to the chocolatier tell ToNeTo Atlanta that the Atlanta stores, and likely most others, will close as of February 15, after what company officials surely hope will be a robust Valentine's Day shopping season.  

The three Atlanta area Godiva shops all occupy premium spaces on their respective malls' second floors, right off the escalator, at "center court."  The owners of Lenox Square (Simon Property Group),  Perimeter Mall (Brookfield Properties Retail Inc.) and North Point Mall (New York Life Insurance Company) while still navigating the effects of COVID-19, should see interest in backfilling the Godiva spaces given their visibility and premium location.  

The decision to close all the North American outlets comes less than two years after the company introduced their café concept in New York City and announced plans to open more than 400 in the region.  

The café concept, an attempt by Godiva to broaden their reach and become more than just a dessert shop, introduced a host of new and unique products.  The menu included the signature Chocolixir, a decadent cold blended drink, baked items like Belgian liege waffles and chocolate inspired cookies, sandwiches and salads.  Available exclusively at GODIVA cafés, the menu also included the Croiffle™, a buttery croissant pressed in a hot waffle iron available in six flavors including Three Cheese filled with melted Gruyere, Havarti and Swiss; Bacon, Egg & Gouda; and GODIVA dark or milk chocolate.  Select items from the café menus were introduced into the Atlanta area shops.  

COVID-19 has led to significant changes in buying habits, not only in retailers, but in restaurants, eateries and other food shops too.  Godiva relied heavily on the in-person shopping experience and their café concept was meant to capitalize on the foot traffic of their stores but their products, especially the new cafe offerings, did not translate well to curbside and other alternative sales.  Additionally, Godiva took longer than some might have predicted to reopen their stores once regulations allowed and this gap likely furthered the stores' financial struggles.   

Food Business News reported Thursday on Godiva's decision to shutter its stores,  “Our brick-and-mortar locations in North America have had a clear purpose since we first opened our doors in this market — to provide an in-person experience for consumers to enjoy the world’s most exquisite chocolates,” said Nurtac Afridi, chief executive officer. “We have always been focused on what our consumers need and how they want to experience our brand, which is why we have made this decision."

Afridi, who was named interim CEO of Godiva in October and officially given the title this past December, added:

 “Of course, this decision was difficult because of the care we have for our dedicated and hardworking chocolatiers who will be impacted. We are grateful for all they have done to make wonderful moments for our consumers and spread happiness through incredible customer service and living our values and behaviors.”  

While Godiva is exiting its brick-and-mortar locations in North America, the company remains committed to the region, Ms. Afridi said. In an effort to reach consumers where they are shopping most frequently, the company has shifted its sales focus to food, drug and mass (FDM) retail outlets and online merchants.  Godiva said it will maintain retail operations across Europe, the Middle East and Greater China.

Are you surprised to see Godiva close all of their North American shops?  What is your favorite premium chocolate?  What would you like to see open in place of the soon-to-shutter Godiva shops in metro Atlanta? 

Please share your thoughts below.  

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