Shoppers lose sweet tooth for Thorntons

 
Kasmira Jefford
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CHOCOLATE maker Thorntons has warned that full-year profits will fall short of expectations, blaming weak consumer confidence and frenzied discounting among rival retailers in the run-up to Christmas.

Shares plunged 37.5 per cent after the confectionary chain said it now only expects to break even for the year to 30 June 2012, before taxation, exceptionals and impairment and “onerous lease charges”.

Analysts had forecast a profit before tax of around £3.8m, compared with £4.3m the previous year.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart, who joined Thorntons in January from Caffe Nero, is closing as many as 180 stores over the next three years as leases expire, replacing them with franchises.

In October, the company reported a 7.6 per cent decline in revenues to £46.5m, while total sales across its own stores were down 10 per cent to £23.4m. It also cut its dividend.

Thorntons said it would issue a further trading update on 12 January.