Christmas loss sees Thorntons dump its dividend

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The Independent Online

The chocolatier Thorntons has passed on its interim dividend after posting a loss over its most vital trading period of the year.

It has also hired Keith Edelman, the retail veteran and former managing director of Arsenal football club, as a non-executive director to help turn around its fortunes.

While Thorntons has skipped on an interim dividend after paying 1.95p a share a year ago, it has a "firm commitment to return to progressive dividends in the future".

The retailer made a loss of £618,000 for the 28 weeks to 7 January, compared with a profit of £8.3m the previous year.

This was partly due to tumbling sales and margins, as it was forced to discount heavily to combat fierce promotional activity on the high street. It was also hit by exceptional charges of £2.45m related to property-related writedowns. Total sales slipped to £130m from £133.5m.

The group is trying to turn around its performance by improving its product offer, expanding its commercial division and exiting up to 180 under-performing stores.

Jonathan Hart, the chief executive, said: "We have good prospects in our commercial channel for Easter, with a strong order book.

"We have taken a number of actions to improve our margins and they will start to flow through in the first half of 2012-13."

Mr Edelman is the chairman at Beale, the struggling retail group, and has held senior roles at Storehouse (the now-defunct former owner of Bhs and Mothercare), Ladbrokes and Carlton Communications.

John von Spreckelsen, Thorntons' chairman,said he brings a "wealth of experience from across a wide range of consumer markets".