Best of British gives Thorntons a taste of a turnaround

Thorntons has plans to close a third of its own stores
Thorntons has plans to close a third of its own stores
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A RANGE of chocolates celebrating the “Best of British” has given a timely boost to the turnaround plans of retailer Thorntons.

The limited edition line-up, which includes chocolate in the shape of a Union flag and a London bus, is part of a drive by the group to reduce its reliance on the peak selling seasons of Christmas and Easter.

With supermarkets snapping up products associated with the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Thorntons’ sales through commercial channels leapt by 45 per cent to £9.3 million in the nine weeks to the end of June, figures yesterday revealed.

Like-for-like sales at its own stores lifted 0.7 per cent – the first time the figure has been in positive territory for nearly three years – helped by the closure of 36 under-performing stores over the past year as part of its turnaround plans.

However, sales at the firm’s franchise stores were down 24 per cent after the division was hit by the administration of Clinton Cards, which housed 46 outlets.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said he was encouraged by the performance, but added that he remained cautious about the outlook.

Investec analyst David Jeary predicts the company will break even, compared to profits of £4.3 million the previous year.

Thorntons’ shares have lost about three-quarters of their value since the start of 2011 following a string of profit warnings amid the squeeze on consumer spending.

That prompted Hart, who was drafted in to turn the business around, to launch a strategy that could see the number of stores reduced from the current 330 to between 180 and 200 over three years. The strategy will see an increasing focus on commercial division and online sales.