Founded in 1981 and incorporated in Colorado in 1982, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Inc. is an international franchisor and confectionery manufacturer. The Company is headquartered in Durango, Colorado and manufactures an extensive line of premium chocolate candies and other confectionery products. As of March 31, 2009 there were 7 Company-owned, 12 franchisee/licensee owned and 315 franchised Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores operating in 35 states, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Company believes approximately 55% of the products sold at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores are prepared on the premises. The Company believes this in-store preparation creates a special store ambiance and the aroma and sight of products being made attracts foot traffic and assures customers that products are fresh.
The Company believes that its principal competitive strengths lie in its brand name recognition, its reputation for the quality, variety and taste of its products; the special ambiance of its stores; its knowledge and experience in applying criteria for selection of new store locations; its expertise in the manufacture of chocolate candy products and the merchandising and marketing of chocolate and other candy products; and the control and training infrastructures it has implemented to assure consistent customer service and execution of successful practices and techniques at its stores.
The Company believes its manufacturing expertise and reputation for quality has facilitated the sale of selected products through specialty markets. The Company is currently selling its products in a select number of specialty markets including wholesaling, fundraising, corporate sales, mail order and internet sales.
The Company’s revenues are currently derived from three principal sources: (i) sales to franchisees and others of chocolates and other confectionery products manufactured by the Company (72-75-72%); (ii) sales at Company-owned stores of chocolates and other confectionery products (including products manufactured by the Company) (7-5-8%) and (iii) the collection of initial franchise fees and royalties from franchisees (21-20-20%). The Company’s revenues are derived from domestic (97-97-98%) and international (3-3-2%) sources. The figures in parentheses show the percentage of total revenues attributable to each source for fiscal years ended February 28 (29), 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively.
According to the National Confectioners Association, the total U.S. candy market approximated $28.0 billion of retail sales in 2008 with chocolate generating sales of approximately $15.9 billion. According to the Department of Commerce, per capita consumption of chocolate in 2008 was approximately 13 pounds per year nationally and decreased 5% when compared to 2007.
The Company’s objective is to build on its position as a leading international franchisor and manufacturer of high quality chocolate and other confectionery products. The Company continually seeks opportunities to profitably expand its business. To accomplish this objective, the Company employs a business strategy that includes the following elements:
Product Quality and Variety
The Company maintains the unsurpassed taste and quality of its chocolate candies by using only the finest chocolate and other wholesome ingredients. The Company uses its own proprietary recipes, primarily developed by the Company’s master candy makers. A typical Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store offers up to 100 of the Company’s chocolate candies throughout the year and as many as 200, including many packaged candies, during the holiday seasons. Individual stores also offer numerous varieties of premium fudge and gourmet caramel apples, as well as other products prepared in the store from Company recipes.
Store Atmosphere and Ambiance
The Company seeks to establish an enjoyable and inviting atmosphere in each Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store. Each store prepares numerous products, including fudge, barks and caramel apples, in the store. In-store preparation is designed both to be fun and entertaining for customers and to convey an image of freshness and homemade quality. The Company’s design staff has developed easily replicable designs and specifications to ensure that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory concept is consistently implemented throughout the system. In February 2000, the Company retained a nationally recognized design firm to evaluate and update its existing store design. The objective of the store design project is threefold: (1) increase average revenue per unit thereby opening untapped real estate environments; (2) further emphasize the entertainment and freshness value of the Company’s in-store confectionery factory; and (3) improve operational efficiency through optimal store layout. The Company completed the store redesign project and the testing of the new design in fiscal 2002. Through March 31, 2009, 176 stores incorporating the new design are in operation.
Careful selection of a site is critical to the success of a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store. Many factors are considered by the Company in identifying suitable sites, including tenant mix, visibility, attractiveness, accessibility, level of foot traffic and occupancy costs. Final site selection occurs only after the Company’s senior management has approved the site. The Company believes that the experience of its management team in evaluating a potential site is one of the Company’s competitive strengths.
Customer Service Commitment
The Company emphasizes excellence in customer service and seeks to employ and to sell franchises to motivated and energetic people. The Company also fosters enthusiasm for its customer service philosophy and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory concept through its bi-annual franchisee convention, regional meetings and other frequent contacts with its franchisees.The Company believes that the negative trend in fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009 was due to the global economic recession that significantly impacted retailing, in general, and regional shopping mall customer traffic, in particular, throughout the United States during all of the fiscal year ended February 28, 2009 resulting in the worst economic and retail environment in the Company’s history. The Company experienced a decrease in same store sales of (2.5%) in its fiscal first quarter of 2009 followed by decreases in same store sales of (2.3%), (8.1%) and (10.0%) in its fiscal second, third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2009 compared with the same periods in fiscal 2008.
In February 2000, the Company retained a nationally recognized packaging design firm to completely redesign the packaging featured in the Company’s retail stores. The Company has designed a contemporary and coordinated line of packaged products that capture and convey the freshness, fun and excitement of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory retail store experience. The Company completed the packaging redesign project during 2002. The Company also believes that the successful launch of new packaging has had a positive impact on same store sales.
Increase Same Store Pounds Purchased by Existing Locations
In fiscal 2009, same store pounds purchased by franchisees decreased 14.8% compared to the prior fiscal year. The Company continues to add new products and focus its existing product lines in an effort to increase same store pounds purchased by existing locations. The Company believes the decrease in same store pounds purchased was due to a product mix shift from factory-made products to products made in the store such as caramel apples and fudge and a decline in same store retail sales. We believe the decline in same store pounds purchased over and above the decline related to decreased same store sales is primarily a result of the United States recession and the resulting financial pressure the recession has created for our system of franchise owned stores.
Enhanced Operating Efficiencies
The Company seeks to improve its profitability by controlling costs and increasing the efficiency of its operations. Efforts in the last several years, include the purchase of additional automated factory equipment, implementation of a comprehensive Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) system, implementation of alternative manufacturing strategies and installation of enhanced Point-of-Sale (POS) systems in all of its Company-owned and 180 of its franchised stores through March 31, 2009. These measures have significantly improved the Company’s ability to deliver its products to its stores safely, quickly and cost-effectively and impact store operations. Additionally, the divestiture of substantially all of the Company-owned stores in fiscal 2002 has reduced the Company’s exposure to real estate risk, improved the Company’s operating margins and allowed the Company to increase its focus on franchising.