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Online sales give bright spot in Thorntons' results

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Chocolate maker Thorntons saw sales through its website grow 12% in its latest financial year. That helped the Thorntons Direct division, which also includes mail order, to a 15.1% rise in sales, to £9.2m from £8m at the same time last year.

Improvements to the website, increased marketing and a wider use of personalisation, giving shoppers the chance to design their own box, using a photo printed on the lid, all played their part in the growth of the Thorntons Direct division.

Total sales, however, were flat at £214.6m in the year to June 26, slightly down from last year’s £214.8m while pre-tax profits before exceptionals dipped to by 2.4% to £6.1m, the company reported today.

Overall, the retail division, with the exception of Thorntons Direct, underperformed, with overall sales falling by 3.7% to £152.0m from £157.8m at the same time last year. Like-for-like sales on the high street fell by 3.5% for the year. Commercial sales, however, grew by 9.8% to £62.6m, from £57m last time.

The focus now is on saving money through measures including workforce reductions, said executive chairman John von Spreckelsen. He said: “We have seen strong sales growth in both the Commercial and Thorntons Direct channels and the number of franchises increased by 25 during the year.

"As set out in our trading statements, the key challenge for the business continues to be the own stores channel, which experienced a decline in sales, particularly in the second half of the financial year.”

He added: “Looking ahead we expect market conditions to remain tough.”

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