Thorntons has had a particularly rough time of it recently, with staff cutbacks and store closures all factored in to a turnaround plan for improving profitability. But thanks in part to a limited edition range of stock celebrating ‘Best of British’, like-for-like sales rose 8% to £24.7m in the three months to the end of June. Notably, this is the first time they have not fallen for about three years.
So how have they done it? True, the chain has helped itself by closing 36 stores to reduce overheads, and plans to close a total of 180 are afoot. But the ‘Best of British’ range has bolstered the firm’s commercial sales (to supermarkets and other licensed retailers) 45% in the nine weeks to June 30. That’s a total of £9.3m revenue for the period.The range, which includes Union Jack chocolates and sweets in the shape of iconic London buses, was aimed at reducing the chain’s dependence on the gift-buying periods of Easter and Christmas. For now at least, it seems to be working.
Considering how bad the situation was late last year – Thorntons had to issue a profit warning in December – shareholders will be pleased that the company seems to be pulling itself back from the brink. The chain’s relatively new chief executive, Jonathan Hart, remained level-headed, despite the good news. ‘Although we are encouraged by this performance, this nine-week period contributes less than 12% to our annual sales and we continue to remain cautious about the outlook for the coming year.’
Investors will be hoping this little boost is the beginning of a trend. Perhaps the Olympics and holiday season will mean more consumers are willing to eat a few choccies. And thanks to the sheer inclemency across the UK at the moment, there’s certainly no danger of any Thorntons chocolate melting just yet…