Chocolatier Thorntons today said it had suffered at the hands of tough competition in the run-up to Christmas as cost-conscious consumers hunted for the best deals.
The group, which has 574 wholly owned and franchise stores in the UK, said like-for-like sales fell by a worse-than-expected 4.2 per cent in the 14 weeks to January 7.
Thorntons, which in June announced plans to close up to 180 stores over three years, said consumers were “purchasing selectively” in the period as high levels of promotional activity across the market hit its sales and profit margins.
The Derbyshire-based group, which last month issued a profits warning following disappointing trade, has been hit by the consumer spending squeeze and has struggled to keep up with competition posed by supermarkets.
The company, which employs 3,000 staff and owns 7.7 per cent of the UK chocolate market, said it expected “continued weakness” in consumer sentiment throughout 2012.