Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Godiva aims at the hearts of Taiwan's chocolate lovers

Godiva Chocolatier, a world leader in the production of fine chocolates, held the grand opening for its first cafe in Taipei. Before the event, Tom Chu, managing director of Godiva Asia, sat down with 'Taipei Times' reporter Jackie Lin to talk about the company's business activities in Taiwan and his observations on the consumption of chocolate in the Asian market

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Tom Chu, managing director of Godiva Asia and president of Godiva Japan, shows his company's wares in the Breeze Center, Taipei, yesterday.

PHOTO: JACKIE LIN, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: With a history of 80 years in Belgium, Godiva only entered the Taiwanese market four years ago, but now it has opened it's first-ever Godiva cafe in Taipei. Why did you choose Taipei and the Breeze Center (微風廣場) to test the waters?

Tom Chu (朱鍵煌): We've been thinking about opening a cafe for many years. But as our strength is in chocolate, we don't have much knowledge about operating cafes. There are two major reasons. We have had a store in the Breeze Center and it's the best performing one among our 14 outlets in Taiwan, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of total sales. Recently the Breeze Center had renovation plans and they asked whether we'd be interested in opening a cafe. This is because they noticed that not all their customers love going to Starbucks. For ladies who shop at Cartier, Gucci or Prada, they want a more premium and special place to sit down and enjoy those quiet moments and relax for 20 minutes.

The second reason is that Breeze Center's customers have shown stronger purchasing power in chocolates and using our materials to make coffee should also be very popular too. The risk of having a cafe here would be minimal. If we open a cafe in another place, we might have to find new customers and would encounter more marketing difficulties.

TT: The cafe has been open as a trial run for more than a month. How's the response so far?

Chu: The performance has been very, very, very good [big laugh]. This is not only reflected in the brisk sales, but also because the Liao family [Breeze Center chairman Paul Liao (廖偉志) and his son executive director Henry Liao (廖鎮漢), bring their friends here every day. They're very happy to have this kind of VIP place. Sales last month in this store were more than double last year. This is also the biggest Godiva cafe in Asia [measuring around 34 pings (112m2) including its warehouse].

TT: Do you have plans to extend the cafe model to other cities and markets in Asia?

Chu: I estimate that Taipei can accommodate three to four such cafes and the second one will open in the second half of next year. Taichung also has strong potential.

In Taiwan alone, our goal is to double the number of existing stores to around 25 within the next two years. As the cafe has just opened, we'd like to see how it goes before deciding how many cafes we will have in the long run.

Outside of Taiwan, the second market for cafes would be in Hong Kong or Japan as their consumption power is strong and customers have made requests after reading Godiva cafe reports about this new store in Taipei.

TT: As Godiva's Asia chief, would you give some insight into Asians' consumer behavior and how Taiwan is different from its counterparts?

Chu: Godiva has been in Japan for 35 years and nearly 97 percent of people know our brand. In Taiwan, we're only just starting off. Taiwanese customers can be categorized into two groups. One is those who are conscious of fashion or lifestyle trends and simply love our chocolate. The other group is more mature in age, and prefer healthier chocolates with a higher cocoa content.

A remarkable trend is that young girls are willing to spend more on quality chocolates, facials or massages to take care of themselves. Premium chocolates are not just a gift-giving decision but a reward for customers themselves. As such, we've decided to speed up our expansion plan to satisfy rising demand.

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