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UK: Festive sales cheer Thornton

20:00 16 January 2013

A Thorntons shop in London's Oxford Street

A Thorntons shop in London's Oxford Street

A big jump in sales of chocolate boxes through supermarkets helped Thorntons avoid a repeat of its previous year’s dismal Christmas performance today.

The group said commercial sales grew strongly by 26.4% to £34.7 million in the 14 weeks to January 12, against a 1.3% decline in like-for-like sales in its store estate.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said he was pleased with overall progress, which compares favourably with the profits warning issued in the run up to the previous Christmas period.

He added: “We have grown market share and demonstrated the continued strength of the Thorntons brand despite a challenging economy and a weak confectionery market.”

The group is leading a drive to reduce reliance on Christmas and Easter as part of a turnaround that has seen it close 27 under-performing stores in the last year as its focuses on a core estate of 180 to 200 sites.

It currently has 317 own-stores and 189 franchise outlets.

Thorntons said its share of the market for boxed chocolates sold through commercial channels increased from 11.7% to 12.1% in the 14 week period as it looks to rebalance its routes to market.

With overall sales up by 5.4% to £88 million in the quarter, Mr Hart added that the company was on course to meet profit expectations for the year to June.

Panmure Gordon analyst Philip Dorgan said the update was a good one given the unhelpful economic conditions.

He added: “This is quite a contrast to last year, when Thorntons issued a profit warning before Christmas and a clear sign that its strategic plan to rebalance its sales towards commercial and thereby restore its profitability to industry competitive returns is beginning to work.”

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