THORNTONS chief executive Jonathan Hart said yesterday the chocolatier’s turnaround was continuing to gather pace as strong demand from supermarkets helped boost fourth quarter sales.
The retailer said that its commercial business, which sells chocolate boxes to grocers and other third party retailers, grew 11.8 per cent to £9.2m in the fourth quarter of the year to 29 June.
The Derbyshire-based group is two years into a three-year plan that will see it halve the number of shops it has on the high street to around 200 and grow its commercial and online channels.
Own store sales declined 3.8 per cent to £13.9m as a result of 34 shop closures during the year, while like-for-like sales edged up by 0.5 per cent.
The retailer now has 296 stores and 186 franchises across the UK.
Total sales increased 5.6 per cent to £26.8m in the 10 week period, its shortest quarter, and Thorntons reaffirmed that annual profits would be ahead of the consensus of £4.6m.
Hart, who took over as CEO in 2011, said he was “encouraged” by the results and that it showed the three-year turnaround strategy “was beginning to deliver”. He expects the commercial arm to grow from 40 per cent to more than half of sales next year.
“While we are not declaring the job done we are pleased with the trajectory as we recover from a weak performance,” Hart told City A.M.
Despite the upbeat statement, shares closed down 6.7 per cent to 90.5p. A source said this was due to one sell-off by a large shareholder.