GODIVA will leave its 128 North American retail stores by the end of March, the company announced Thursday.

In a departure from plans announced in 2019 to open 2,000 GODIVA locations worldwide, the chocolatier said it will instead continue its “aggressive focus” on food, drug and mass retail and online sales.

“We are making it even easier for our consumers to enjoy GODIVA, whether that’s by treating themselves or gifting, so that everyone can have access to our premium chocolate,” said GODIVA CEO Nurtac Afridi in a statement to media. “GODIVA is already available in many retailers in North America, and we will continue to increase our presence there while always upholding the premium quality, taste and innovation that we have been renowned for since we were founded in Brussels in 1926.” 

GODIVA also pointed to the waning demand for in-person experiences at brick-and-mortar stores as a result of the pandemic and its acceleration of changes in consumers’ shopping behavior.

The company will exit its North American stores partially through sales and partially through closures. However, GODIVA will maintain retail operations across Europe, the Middle East and greater China in formats that reflect the unique cultural preferences of those markets.  

“Our brick-and-mortar locations in North America have had a clear purpose since we first opened our doors in this market – to provide an in-person experience for consumers to enjoy the world’s most exquisite chocolates,” Afridi said. “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.”

Additional details, including the number of employees affected, were not disclosed.

“Of course, this decision was difficult because of the care we have for our dedicated and hard-working chocolatiers who will be impacted,” Afridi said. “We are grateful for all they have done to make wonderful moments for our consumers and spread happiness through incredible customer service and living our values and behaviors.