Cookie Time takes bite of Japan market

Buoyed by the success of its Queenstown Cookie Bar, Christchurch-based Cookie Time has gone international.

It officially opened the Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar in the Harajuku district of Tokyo yesterday, in a partnership with Japan's largest privately owned food distribution business IceCo.

Two more Japanese stores were planned in the next 12 months and Cookie Time International Ltd was also in discussions with potential partners in Thailand and Malaysia.

Cookie Time opened its first domestic Cookie Bar in Queenstown in 2010 and it had been ''delighted'' with that store's progress, Cookie Time International Ltd director Lincoln Booth said from Japan yesterday.

Retail was a ''really tough game'' and coming from a wholesale background, it had been quite new for the company.

Setting up in Queenstown was a bold move and they had been lucky enough to ''keep chipping away'', developing and expanding the business, and it had evolved into quite a sustainable model.

They were fortunate to have a fantastic team and that helped them gain enough confidence in the model to take it offshore, Mr Booth said.

Strong performance and ''double digit'' growth over the past 18 months had led to approaches by international companies interested in licensing opportunities.

The Cookie Bar opened in Harajuku - known as Japan's centre of street fashion - with a soft launch in late December.

Mr Booth was delighted with sales, which included a record day on Wednesday. Valentine's Day was also a ''big thing'' in Japan and he was expecting another strong sales day.

''It's very early days for the Harajuku store, but the positive reception is cer-tainly supporting our international retail aspirations and giving us confidence in pushing forward in this space,'' Mr Booth said.

Japan was a ''fantastic'' market and had really connected with the Cookie Time brand.

Mr Booth described yesterday's launch as an ''absolute milestone'' for the company.

Queenstown remained the company's only domestic Cookie Bar and while the company would ''love to go elsewhere'', it needed a sustainable model which performed well, he said.

Cookie Time had grown from humble beginnings but the values and entrepreneurial spirit from its inception remained strong, Mr Booth said.

The company was founded in 1983 by then 21-year-old Michael Mayell, who, in his one-bedroom Christchurch flat, dreamed up the idea of a giant homemade cookie.

It now makes more than 15 different types of cookie, as well as Bumper Bars and the meal bar One Square Meal.

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