Belfast Telegraph

Thorntons revamps range in fight to reverse falling sales

By Graeme Evans

Chocolate retailer Thorntons will revamp its Christmas range as part of its bid to recover from a fall in annual profits.

The company has a number of outlets across Northern Ireland.

Fewer transactions and significant levels of discounting meant sales in the company's own stores slid 3.6% to £129.8m in the year to June 26, contributing to a 2.4% decline in group profits to £6.1m.

Thorntons hopes to reverse the trend by launching new products and refreshing existing ranges, alongside an updated marketing campaign ahead of Christmas.

It recently launched a new range of "indulgent" bars, while its continental range of products is due to be refreshed next month.

Thorntons, which has more than 375 retail stores, announced the latest initiatives as it warned it expected the tough conditions that have dogged trading in recent months to continue.

The firm issued a profits warning in May, when it also announced that chief executive Mike Davies would retire at the end of September in favour of a successor with "specific retail expertise".

It said today that the selection process for a new chief executive was well advanced.

As well as the pressure on own-store sales, Thorntons said franchise sales were down 14.7% due to the impact of greetings card firm Birthdays going into administration in May 2009.

This was offset by a 15% rise in sales in its online division, while sales achieved through commercial customers were up 9.8% to £62.6m.

Executive chairman John von Spreckelsen described trading at Thorntons' own stores as the key challenge facing the business.

The decline in sales gathered pace in the second half of the financial year, although trading since then has been in line with expectations.

Mr von Spreckelsen added: "We have strengthened our senior retail management team and we believe that this, together with extensive product innovation and changes to the promotional and marketing programmes, should have a positive impact on trading in the lead up to Christmas."