On the Money

Godiva tries for 'accessible' as Valentine's Day looms

Cupid & chocolate
Cupid & chocolate

Cupid's holiday—the favorite of many females—will be here in less than a week. For most men, however, Valentine's Day isn't on the radar just yet, which works for an upscale brand trying to make itself more accessible.

That's what Michelle Chin, Godiva's vice president of marketing, North America, told CNBC in an interview. Not that Godiva is complaining, however. The procrastination translates into a sales boom for the Belgian candy giant, which has been around for nearly 100 years.

"The last two days of Valentine's Day, when you come to a Godiva store, it is almost 80 percent males," Chin said. "They are coming in right before the lunch rush, with all their other guy friends, and are trying to figure out what to get for their significant other."

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Chin says the Belgian chocolatier conducted a survey to find out why Valentine's Day is always a "last minute rush … [with] so many procrastinators waiting for the last minute," Chin added.

The company asked 500 men around the country about why they put off buying for the romantic holiday. It has a lot to do with football: The survey found 25 percent of men surveyed say they don't even think about Valentine's Day until after the Super Bowl.

Making Godiva an 'everyday' option

Godiva soft serve ice cream cone.
Source: Godiva.

Valentine's Day is a major sales day for Godiva and other chocolate makers and sellers. The National Confectioners Association is projecting more than $1 billion dollars will be spent on candy for the holiday this year. More than 75 percent of that money will be spent on Valentine's Day chocolate sales nationally.

Godiva is known for its high-end, gold gift boxes of Belgian chocolates. While they offer heart-shaped boxes during Valentine's Day in the $50 to $75 dollar range, the company is expanding its approach and trying to broaden its appeal.

Chin says customer service feedback found that one of the barriers at their 200 stores was Godiva chocolate was not "easily accessible." In response, they started an "accessibility" platform.

The result, she said, is offering less expensive, small individually wrapped chocolate bars as an "everyday" option at Godiva stores. Simultaneously, the company is trying to expand into new areas.

"The summer we launched an extension of chocolate where we entered into soft-serve ice cream," the executive said, which will cost $6.

So, can offering items at lower price points damage Godiva's "high-end" brand?

"It actually helps the brand," Chin said. Consumers are looking to enjoy an affordable luxury, and "offering a soft serve at $6 gives consumers a chance to enjoy the brand whenever they want."

Recently, prices for cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, have fallen on weaker demand. The situation differs from 2014, when a run of high cocoa prices led to higher chocolate retail prices, and lower consumption. Cocoa prices peaked in September, at 3 1/2-year highs above $3,300 per ton, before retreating.

Despite that, Chin says, "Our demand has been really, really high for chocolates in general at Godiva."

Chin says because of volume needs they now have a U.S. plant in Pennsylvania. With a major chocolate holiday around the corner, Chin says her company is very excited for Valentine's Day this year. "It's a great time to celebrate love. "

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