Belfast Telegraph

Thorntons fear flop over not so sweet yearly figures

Thorntons raised concerns of a Christmas flop on the high street as the chocolatier warned it was trading below hopes and was unlikely to make a profit next year.

The group, which has 579 stores in the UK, said pre-tax profits would be around break-even in the year to June, compared with £4.3m in the previous year, as intense competition and weak consumer confidence continue to undermine the business.

Thorntons, which plans to shut 180 stores over the next three years as part of a turnaround programme, has suffered as cash-strapped consumers cut back on chocolate treats and previously warned it had lost a large corporate order at its internet division.

There has been a mixed picture in the run-up to Christmas with some major players, such as John Lewis, reporting healthy sales while official figures for November showed a drop in monthly sales volumes.

Thorntons has struggled so far this financial year - which started in July - with its most recent update showing a near 8% decline in like-for-like sales at its company-owned stores.

The company unveiled a strategic review in June, which as well as store closures will include improved merchandising, updated layouts and new products.

The group will close a minimum of 120 stores over the three-year strategy period and explore opportunities to close a further 60. It added it may look to re-site or open stores in the UK's top 100 retail locations if opportunities arise.