Thorntons maintains recovery with profits hike

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The Independent Online

Chocolate retailer Thorntons today said half-year profits rose 14 per cent after the company notched a fifth successive quarter of sales growth.

Thorntons said revenues of £126.7 million in the 28 weeks to 12 January represented an increase of 13.9 per cent on a year earlier, helping profits improve to £11.9 million from £10.5 million last time.

Derbyshire-based Thorntons, which has around 380 stores, suffered from falling profits in 2006, but has revived its performance with new products, in-store changes and better customer service.

Chief executive Mike Davies said: "Thorntons continues to make good progress across all channels and has now delivered sales growth for five consecutive quarters.

"Whilst the retail sector continues to be challenging, the company remains on course to meet market expectations."

He said the company needed to remain close to its "traditional values of high quality products and innovation".

The company said new ranges and better customer service contributed to store sales growth of 4.7 per cent to £82.1 million. Developments included the re-launch of its continental range and a children's selection with no artificial colours or added preservatives.

Thorntons said there had been improvements in staff turnover and morale following "significant investment" in its workforce and the roll-out of its "You are the Difference" programme.

Franchise-run stores increased sales by 18.6 per cent to £9.6 million, helped by the addition of 34 new outlets, mainly in smaller towns across the UK.

Sales via supermarkets and other retailers grew by 45 per cent to £29.7 million, reflecting increased distribution within existing and new customers.

The group, founded by Joseph Thornton almost a century ago in 1911, has around 4,000 staff. It made pre-tax profits of £7.1 million on sales of £186 million in the year to 30 June.