Thorntons is planning to close all of its stores, shifting its sales to online and wholesale channels in the face of “too severe” obstacles to its high street business.
In recent years the chocolate manufacturer and retailer has adapted to a world in which shoppers spend more of their money online. It has cut the size of its store estate in recent years. In 2011 it announced it would close half of its then 364 stores . Since then, under the ownership of Italian firm Ferrero, it has slimmed down further to about 120 shops in 2019 to 61 shops today.
Now, following a year of successive Covid-19 lockdowns – hitting both Easter and Christmas trade – it is to consult staff on closing all of its shops. Thorntons says in a letter to customers on its website that “as customers continue to change the way they shop, we must change with them”. That means continuing to sell online and via grocery partners.
Adam Goddard, retail director at Thorntons: “The consultation to review our Thorntons- owned retail estate has started and will review approximately 603 roles. We will actively support all of our colleagues who are affected through individual consultations. We accept that we will have to consider redundancy and we will continue to support our colleagues with enhanced redundancy and outplacement support, including one to one career coaching. All impacted colleagues will also have the opportunity to apply for vacancies at our Greenford and Alfreton sites and if successful, we will provide relocation support where needed.”
Alfreton is the site of the Thorntons factory and Greenford is its registered office.
Thorntons says in a letter to staff on its website: “We remain committed to our iconic Thorntons brand and will continue to invest further in the future potential to ensure we evolve with the times.”
The letter also says: “Like many companies, we have been operating for a long time in a tough and challenging retail environment. We have been committed to transforming and growing a successful Thorntons retail estate; this has included significant investments to open new format stores and cafes and ensuring we had stores in the right locations.
“However, changing dynamics of the high street, shifting customer behaviour to online, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the numerous lockdown restrictions over the last year – especially during our key trading periods at Easter and Christmas – has meant we have been operating in the most challenging circumstances.
“Unfortunately like many other retailers, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe. Despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to go into full consultation to start the permanent closure of our retail store estate. We understand that this will be an uncertain and concerning time for our colleagues and we will actively support them during this period.”
Thorntons, founded in 1911 in Sheffield by travelling confectioner Joseph William Thornton, is a Top350 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.