Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli has reported a rise in sales for 2002 despite what it called "a very difficult market environment and the depressed consumer mood" in its most important markets.
The company said that sales grew by 7.6 per cent in local currencies, but that actual sales were ahead by a slightly more modest 3.7 per cent as a result of the strength of the Swiss franc when compared to the US dollar or the euro.
Reported sales of SF1.7 billion were ahead 5.6 per cent in Swiss franc terms, however, due to an adjustment made to the sales figures of Lindt's French subsidiary, which in the past were reported too low, the company said.
Despite the tough trading conditions, sales improved at most of the group's major subsidiaries, with those in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain and the UK managing double-digit growth rates. While growth was not so great in other countries, increased marketing efforts helped drive sales in other countries, in particular Germany and France.
Lindt said it was pleased with its performance during the year, with seasonal sales (at Christmas, Easter or Valentine's Day, for example) performing well. But it also significantly strengthened its position in year-round sales, a sign that consumers are becoming increasingly partial to premium products, it suggested.
In the US, the company shrugged off the difficult economic climate to expand its Lindt boutique chain, which now comprises 88 outlets.
Lindt said that the increasing sales in declining or stagnant markets meant that it had increased its market share at the expense of its rivals. "The company's success can largely be attributed to the consistent implementation of the group's strategy, which among other activities includes the introduction of a large number of consumer-relevant innovations, the enlargement of the distribution network, an improvement of the communication and an increase in marketing investments," Lindt said in a statement.
Full results for 2002 will be published in April.