Thorntons melts in Easter sun

Thorntons has issued a profit warning following flaky chocolate sales over Easter. So after December's snow, now the high street has to contend with hot weather too.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
We may have shouted 'hip-hip-hip hooray' at seeing the sun popping its hat on again, but it hasn't been a frolic in the bluebells for everyone. Take Thorntons. Easter accounts for about a third of all the choccy retailer's store sales in the first four months of the year, with Easter eggs and all that, but this year it reckons the blazing sun resulted in a 22.8% drop in like-for-like sales compared with the same week in 2010.
 
Like-for-likes in Thorntons' own stores were down 12.6% over the 16 weeks to the end of April, compared with the same period a year ago. When it gets hot enough to start frying real eggs on the pavement, it seems everyone's too busy shoving their head in the paddling pool to grubby their hands with the melting chocolate replicas.
 
The irony is that back in February, Thorntons had joined the majority of other retailers in blaming the freezing winter weather for disrupting its sales and supply chain. It's now suffered a case of out of the freezer, into the fire: even stocking extra ice cream ahead of the Easter week wasn't enough to counter this dip. Thorntons' performance may of course pick up again, but judging by its recent complaints it may take some particular conditions - perhaps a period of sustained moderate weather, with relatively high pressure, good visibility and a slight breeze?
 
Shares in Thorntons fell 6.5% to 75p shortly after it announced the news. The retailer had expected its profits for the year to the end of June to be about the same level as last year. Now it reckons they'll be £3m-£4.5m down on last year, when it posted pre-tax profits of £6.1m. Indeed, it would probably be happy if the weather was its only problem - but with people's shopping habits equally unpredictable these days, it won't be counting its eggs any time soon.

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