Heat melts Thorntons profits

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The Independent Online
POOR Easter sales and unusually hot weather during May and June blunted progress made after a successful Christmas and Valentine's Day at Thorntons, the chocolate and ice-cream company.

The final dividend was held at 2.4p after pre-tax profits fell by 23 per cent to pounds 9.2m in the year to 27 June 1992. The total dividend was 3.65p against 3.60p last year.

Thorntons said the general election, which came two weeks after Easter, caused consumer uncertainty at an important time.

Sales in the commercial ice- cream market rose in May and June, but failed to compensate for the chocolate slump, where the whole market fell by 20 per cent.

'The average ice-cream costs 70p where someone buying chocolate spends pounds 1.90,' John Thornton, chairman, said. 'We'd need more than double the number of customers for it to even out.'

He said the company may introduce products such as milk shakes to boost its summer selection.

The figures included an exceptional item of pounds 400,000 for unrealised valuation losses after Thorntons discontinued its property development activities.

Management restructuring, which the firm calculates will save pounds 600,000 a year, cost a further pounds 630,000 above the line.

Thorntons has introduced Select, an up-market chocolate assortment, and enhanced its top- selling Continental range to secure seasonal sales, which account for 55 per cent of business.

It opened 28 new outlets in Britain, bringing the total to 395, and plans to expand in France, where it has 58 shops. It made a profit of pounds 148,000 on the sale of its shop in the Champs Elysees.

Earnings per share fell from 12.6p to 9.9p. Yesterday the shares dipped 5p before rallying to close unchanged at 165p.