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All eyes on Christmas for Thorntons as sales jump

CHOCOLATE retailer Thorntons yesterday said it was well-positioned for Christmas as it posted a 2.3 per cent rise in first-quarter sales, sending its shares up by five per cent in morning trading.<br /><br />Thorntons, which trades from 378 stores and 199 franchises, said its total sales increased to &pound;46.8m in the 14 weeks to 3 October, up from &pound;45.7m in the previous corresponding period.<br /><br />Shares in the 98-year-old firm, which have increased in value by 55 per cent over the last quarter, closed up 2.5 per cent to 121p, valuing the business at &pound;82.7m.<br /><br />Own store sales increased 1.9 per cent, with like-for-like sales up 1.3 per cent. Thorntons Direct sales were up 2.4 per cent, and sales to other retailers were up 7.2 per cent.<br /><br />Chief executive Mike Davies said: &ldquo;We are better prepared for what might come our way at Christmas. We know it&rsquo;s going to be competitive.&rdquo;<br /><br />He said the recent launch of a new range of chocolates targeted at young women underpinned his confidence.<br /><br />The group&rsquo;s franchise sales fell 15.2 per cent as a result of the administration of card retailer Birthdays, which operated 94 franchises.<br /><br />Davies said he did not think Thorntons&rsquo; business would be significantly affected if Kraft Foods took over Dairy Milk maker Cadbury.