Thorntons chief quits over slump

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The Independent Online

Thorntons announced the departure of its chief executive Peter Burdon yesterday as the chocolate retailer unveiled a 36 per cent fall in profits in the first half of the year.

However, plans to revive its melting profits by emphasising the health benefits of its new range of organic chocolate products were welcomed by investors, driving a 2.4 per cent gain in the shares to 136.75p.

For the year to 24 June, pre-tax profits fell 36 per cent to £5.2m while underlying sales dropped 3.7 per cent to £176.6m.

The chairman, John von Spreckelsen, who joined in June, said he was confident that the growth plan would revive the company's prospects as Thorntons focuses on its product range instead of cost-cutting. The new chairman has been credited with turning around the supermarket chain Somerfield.

Mr Burdon will remain with the company until a replacement is found. Thorntons declined to comment on his reasons for stepping down nor on what sort of pay-off he is likely to receive.

Thorntons hopes to capitalise on the upsurge in demand for organic products. It will also look to emphasise the possible health benefits of some products, such as high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate.

The company plans to open 10 stores and spend £1m on refurbishing its 367 UK stores. It will also double its marketing spend in the lead-up to Christmas and look to drive more sales through its website and supermarkets.