Thorntons to stick by strategy despite supermarket sales setback

Thorntons today announced improved sales for its own chain of stores.

Thorntons today announced improved sales for its own chain of stores. - Credit: PA

Chocolate retailer Thorntons today vowed to stick by its commercial sales strategy despite the struggles of a “couple of major grocers” offsetting a strong Christmas in its stores.

Thorntons, which has 247 shops, was forced to issue a profits warning on December 23 following weaker supermarket demand and teething problems at its new centralised warehouse.

But inn a further update today it said it had been encouraged by a 7.8% increase in like-for-like sales for its retail estate during December amid strong demand for boxed chocolates, seasonal specialities and advent calendars.

However, a couple of struggling major grocers meant sales via commercial channels dipped by 10.3% to £41.9million in the 14 weeks to January 10.

Thorntons has relied on increasing commercial business as it comes to the end of a three-year plan that has seen it close dozens of its own stores.

The company lost more than a quarter of its value following the profits warning last month but shares were 2% higher in early trading today as chief executive Jonathan Hart said the company remained confident in its strategy and ongoing transformation.

He added: “Good growth in many of our grocery, convenience and high street accounts and a strong performance from our retail division gives us confidence in shopper demand for our brand and products.”

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The teething problems at its new warehouse in Alfreton caused disruption for all its customers, leading to missed promotional slots and re-orders.

But the firm has said the new depot is now working normally and would result in improved capacity and service to customers in the future.