Merry Xmas for Thorntons

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Somercotes chocolate manufacturer Thorntons has reported a “good” festive performance with an increase in sales.

The firm said that, in the 14 weeks up to January 11, it achieved overall sales of £93.1 million, 6.3 per cent up on the same period last year.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “Our performance over this important period demonstrates continued good progress in the transformation of our business.

“We are pleased that both our operating divisions delivered positive results with strong sales in our Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) division and encouraging like-for-like growth in our retail division.

“Customer response to our new seasonal lines, in particular our advent calendars and our Snowman licensed range, exceeded our expectations. We also saw good growth in our core boxed chocolate ranges, notably through our refreshed classics selections.”

Sales in the retail division slipped in the 14 weeks to January 11 by 2.9 per cent to £46.1million, which reflected 36 store closures, compared with the same period last year, as part of its strategy to shrink its high street portfolio. The retailer shut seven stores in the period, leaving it with 281 shops at the end of the quarter.

Like-for-like sales increased by 3.5 per cent in the division, with consumer direct sales reporting good growth and increasing by 27 per cent.

Franchise sales declined by 3.1 per cent in the quarter. UK commercial revenue jumped by 21.1 per cent as a result of a good Christmas performance driven by “excellent” sales of seasonal specialities, a broadening of sales across the customer base and early spring deliveries.

Revenue climbed by 1.8 per cent to more than £221 million and pre-tax profit rose from a loss of £2.2 million to £5.2 million in the year ended 29 June 2013.