Chocolate retailer Thorntons has seen a total sales decline of 7.6 per cent to £46.5 million in its first quarter of trading, it was announced today.
In the 14 weeks up to and including October 1st 2011, own store sales declined by 10.1 per cent to £23.4 million with like-for-like sales dropping by 7.8 per cent.
The retailer points out that these disappointing figures are due to the ongoing difficulties in the economic climate and states that they are in line with the management’s expectations.
In June, the company announced the prospect of a new business strategy which could see up to 180 stores closed on high streets across the UK over the next three years and a greater focus on improving its customers’ brand experience.
Like other retailers, the chocolatier is focusing on online offerings, and consumer online sales continued to grow by 5.1 per cent year-on-year.
However, the online wholesale arm Thornton’s Direct saw sales decrease by 8.1 per cent to £1.2 million due to the loss of a large corporate order, while franchise fell by 6.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2010.
The group has recently announced the retirement of Chairman John von Spreckelsenwho is to step down from his position within the next 12 months.
While the search for a successor has been initiated, the board of directors has not yet commented on any possible replacement.
Commercial channel sales have decreased by 4.9 per cent to £18.9 million, although the company is quick to point out that the difference in growth compared to the same period last year reflects the timing of retailers’ Christmas orders which will now fall into the second quarter.
The order book for Christmas trading, however, remains strong and in line with expectations, which Thornton’s CEO Jonathan Hart feels is a positive sign.
“As expected, the retail environment continues to be challenging with weakness in high street footfall,” he explained.
“Our consumers remain cost conscious and continue to select promoted products.
“Our programme to improve own store merchandising and layout launches in October.
“We are now starting to roll out our new ranges of ‘little gifts’ into the stores and are pleased with our strong Christmas seasonal offer across all channels.
“The commercial sales order book for Christmas is in line with our expectations and we would expect to report strong year-on-year growth within this channel by the half-year.”