Ex-boss warns Thorntons must change


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The former chairman of Thorntons has warned that the 100-year-old chocolatier could face administration or be snapped up by a private-equity firm if it does not change its strategy.

Peter Thornton, part of the founding family and former chairman of the retailer, also said the current management team's focus has been "superficial" and focused more on "appearance than strategy".

Thorntons issued three profit warnings last year and has started a programme to close up to 180 stores, as its market share has been eaten up by the supermarkets and the premium brand Hotel Chocolat.

Mr Thornton, who left the company in 1987, warned: "I do fear that if Thorntons survives at all, it may well finish up as another Cadburys — a tiny part of some huge, foreign multinational with employees thrown out of work, factories closed, shops closed and the usual and unseen damage to the locality and the country.

"Alternatively, Thorntons may go into administration to be picked up by some private-equity company and further emasculated."

He calls for a radical overhaul of its strategy to return to its original status of selling "high-quality, exclusive and aspirational confectionery products at a reasonable price through its own stores".

Pulling no punches, he said: "Certainly if the current crazy strategy of selling what is perceived to be exclusive and special products in run-down Thorntons retail stores — and they are being discounted even here — and the selling and discounting in supermarkets continues, then disaster is inevitable.

A new strategy needs to be implemented urgently."

Thorntons, which declined to comment, saw like-for-like sales at its own stores fall by 1.6 per cent over the 16 weeks to 28 April.

The retailer is forecast to make a full-year loss of£2.4m after exceptionals and impairment charges.