A Bittersweet Farewell for Godiva

Owners are shutting down the company’s brick and mortar stores in North America, including New York City

Its another farewell to a Godiva Chocolatier brick and mortar store. Following an announcement on Jan. 20 that all its North American stores would be closing,  Godiva on 7th Ave and 50th St. had its last round of sales on Wednesday, Feb. 10.  The store was one of two remaining after a string of closures in the city.

Onlookers pass the Godiva store on 7th Avenue in Manhattan on its last business day.  (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

At the 7th Ave location on Wednesday, masked chocolate shoppers would enter one after another, after lining up outside to get their last chance at grabbing products.

A hand-written 8×11 note—saying “Last Day of Business”—had been posted alongside a red storewide sale sign on the store’s front window. Once inside the store, other signs told of sales ranging up to 25%, for its varieties of chocolates and Valentine’s items.

A sale sign posted at Godiva’s storefront on 49th and 7th Ave. (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

One customer expressed surprise.  “I’m shocked,” said Tasso Sirigos, who said he had been a patron of the company exclusively for his annual Valentine’s purchases for his loved ones.  “I’ve been buying the store’s teddy bears for the past 29 years.”

Godiva Chocolatiers, originally found in Brussels, Belgium, had eight brick and mortar stores in New York City and operated more than 450 stores worldwide before the announcement.

One passerby stopped and got in line in front of the store after observing the sign announcing its closure.  “I’m not surprised with it closing after all that’s been happening with the pandemic,” said Matt Ouka. “Times Square is dead.”

Store customers wait in line for their purchase of chocolate items at Godiva. (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

According to an employee, the location was even supposed to close earlier and had been closed through the weekend, but opened back up for the last sale of products.

Although Godiva’s press office had initially announced its stores closing for a period from Valentine’s Day through the end of March, stores have had an earlier closure than expected. “I wasn’t expecting the store to close just like that,” said the 7th Ave. store manager, Mykel Gleez, who said he has been working with the company for the past three years.  

The 7th Ave. location had been open for the past 14 years according to Gleez.  The oldest location, on 5th Avenue, opened in 1972 ,according to the company’s site.

Currently owned by Yildiz Holdings, based in Istanbul, and MBK, a South Korean firm, the company has seen quite a few transitions in recent years. A new CEO had been appointed just late December.

The last Godiva store open in New York City—in Herald Square Macy’s 6th floor, in the food and candy section—is expected to close as well. Store employees did not share details of its exact closure date.

Although Godiva has had “continued growth” of its consumer base, it was “largely being driven by online and greater product purchasing through its grocery, club, and retail partners” according to the company’s press release.

Signs point to retail partner stores—including Macy’s, Walgreens, and Barnes & Noble–are displayed at Godiva’s counter. (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

“At the same time, in this market, demand for the in-person shopping experience offered through Godiva’s brick and mortar locations has waned as a result of the pandemic,” the press release continued.

Although in the pandemic, a number of Godiva chocolatiers locations had closed, some stores were starting to open up again, according to employees.  

Other chocolate stores in the city—such as Neuhaus Chocolates and Chocolate Moderne on 20th street–are still offering the  in-person experience, and employees said they expect near same-level sales as last year for Valentines for in-store shopping.

Valentine’s Day goods at Neuhaus Chocolates inside Hudson Yards. (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

“Two days leading up were always our biggest in-store sale days,” said Joan Coukos, owner of Chocolate Moderne.  “A lot of guys wait till the last minute.”

The owner at Chocolate Moderne prepares Valentines orders. (Photo by Sarah Chung for NY City Lens)

Neuhaus Chocolates on Madison Avenue had been the only chocolate store open throughout the pandemic in New York City, according to Lisa Zacchario, Neuhaus Chocolates’ multi-store manager.

“We stayed open and our store in Madison Avenue did curbside pickup and delivery,” said Zacchario. “That really made a difference to clients and during that time, we received a lot of Godiva clients, because they were very mad that they could only order online.”

“A lot of our customers, you know, they’re all different age groups, and some people aren’t savvy with computers,” said Zacchario.

“Godiva is already available in many retailers in North America and we will continue to increase our presence there,” said Nurtac Afridi, CEO of Godiva.  “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.”

 

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