Thorntons unveils new boss

CHOCOLATE retailer Thorntons has appointed Caffé Nero managing director Jonathan Hart as its new chief executive.

Hart will take up his post on 4 January and will be charged with restoring momentum to the confectioner’s high street operations, which have suffered from falling sales in recent months.

During five years with Caffé Nero, he doubled the coffee chain’s high street presence to more than 400 stores. Hart spent more than a decade with Dixons Group and also worked as an executive at Woolworths.

“Jonathan brings a wealth of relevant experience to Thorntons from the retail and consumer goods sectors,” said Thorntons chairman John von Spreckelsen.

“He has an impressive track record in successfully running a number of multi-channel businesses, including concessions, and a proven track record in the development of retail format strategies, new product development and launches.”

Caffé Nero saw revenue of £153.6m for the year to the end of May under Hart.

Meanwhile, Thorntons had issued a profits warning in April and announced that chief executive Mike Davies would be stepping down. The Derby-based company has been forced to shed staff after a series of poor results.

Finance chief Mark Robson had been running the Thorntons business. He will revert to his old job once Hart arrives in January. Thorntons today has a £180m turnover of nearly 400 shops and cafes and around 200 franchises.

It is the UK’S largest independent chocolate and confectionery firm after Kraft took over Cadbury.

JONATHAN HART

INCOMING CHIEF
EXECUTIVE OF THORNTONS
JONATHAN Hart previously worked at Caffe Nero as managing director, where he was part of the small team which completed the management buyout of the chain in early 2007.

Prior to his appointment at Caffe Nero, Hart held a number of substantial retail jobs including at Dixons, Woolworths and Tesco as well as being managing director at Abbey National and chief executive of ITM Communications.

At Dixons he introduced satellite TV and consumer PCs, developed the Dixons Tax-Free format, created The Link, lead a green-field e-commerce start-up in Paris and latterly as group managing director managed all of the group’s high street businesses. At Woolworths he developed the group’s out-of-town business and at Abbey ran the banking retail network.

“Jonathan has an impressive track record in successfully running a number of multi channel businesses,” says Georgina Hall, a spokeswoman for Thorntons.

“He has experience in managing and driving improvements and there are a number of significant direct comparisons between the challenges of operating the small retail unit sizes at Caffè Nero and in Thorntons, as well as a comparable retail brand proposition of mass premium.”