Thorntons sales rise by 22%

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The Independent Online
SALES AT Thorntons, the maker and retailer of upmarket chocolates, rose by 22 per cent to pounds 133m in the year to 27 June, including a like- for-like sales increase of 9.6 per cent.

However, profits increased by only 9 per cent to pounds 12.6m as a result of increased packaging and distribution costs as a result of introducing 132 new product lines, of which 15 flopped. Net debt rose from pounds 6m to pounds 35m and gearing to 67 per cent.

The 87-year-old Derbyshire-based company has just completed the second year of a five-year makeover programme. In the past year the company has spent pounds 45m extending the factory, adding another 59 shops, and re-siting a further 41.

The programme will take a further three years to complete, during which the investment programme will be scaled down to pounds 15m to pounds 20m a year.

Analysts are maintaining profit forecasts for the current year of around pounds 14m and earnings of 14.5p a share.

The shares rose 7p to 184.5p yesterday.

Investment column, page 25