Sales were up 11 per cent in the 14 weeks to 5 October – but only in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) division that sells chocolate through other stores, not in Thorntons’ own retail division. There, sales were down 5.6 per cent. That figure is somewhat inflated by store closures in the period – eight were shuttered, leaving a chain of 288 stores owned by Thorntons. Yet even the like-for-likes are nothing to shout about, down 0.4 per cent, even as other, smaller components of the retail division shone: franchise sales were up 17.3 per cent and consumer direct sales were up 14.2 per cent.
In its most recent annual report, Thorntons announced £101.1m in sales through FMCG but £120m from retail, including £102.5m from its own stores. The latest numbers show FMCG taking a lead, bringing in £23.8m to retail’s £23.2m. The big gifting season ahead will test if that necessary rebalancing is a permanent shift.