Profits provide sweet taste for Thorntons

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Chocolate maker Thorntons saw its full-year profits jump 60 per cent as it continued to close its own shops and rely on improving supermarket sales.

The Derbyshire-based business said pre-tax profits leapt to £7.4m in the year to June 28, as sales through third-party outlets such as grocers lifted 9.7 per cent to £99.4m. Group sales edged up 0.6 per cent at £222.4m.

The group is now at the end of a three-year turnaround plan that has seen it close dozens of its own stores, taking it to 260 sites. Over the next three years it plans 180 to 200 stores, almost half of which will have been refitted.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “We are pleased with these results which indicate continued strong recovery in our profitability and are testament to the strategy we put in place just over three years ago.”

The business said it will continue to review its store portfolio “on a detailed and frequent basis”.

Its retail division, which covers sales made in Thorntons’ own stores, direct sales to consumers and through franchises, saw total sales fall 5.6 per cent to £111.4m, reflecting store closures. But on a like-for-like basis the retail unit rose 1.1 per cent, its best performance in six years.

Thorntons said its third-party sales lifted 68 per cent at Christmas and by 12 per cent at Easter, driven by the launch of a Snowman licensed range and the introduction of a new Harry Hopalot bunny character.

The company added that the rising price of cocoa over the past year had impacted its operations, forcing it to increase prices during the spring.

The firm said as its third-party sales grow there will be a greater fluctuation in quarterly sales due to differing stock requirements, although the chocolate maker said this will not necessarily affect its annual results.

The business did not pay a dividend.