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Thorntons reports online sales up while overall sales dip

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Thorntons this week reported a small increase in online sales despite an 11.9% fall in overall sales in the first quarter of its financial year.

The confectionery manufacturer and retailer said ecommerce sales through its consumer direct channel grew by 3.2% in the quarter, compared to the same time last year. Thorntons said it would focus on growing the contribution of the online channel but said as yet it remained “a small part of overall sales.”

The small growth in internet sales came as Thorntons reported overall company sales of £41.4m in the 14 weeks to October 4, 11.9% down on the same time last year. The fall, it said, came as the timing of orders in its commercial channel fluctuated, something, it said, that would continue as Thorntons transforms itself into a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company. FMCG sales of £20.8m were down by 12.8% on last time, while retail sales of £20.6m were 10.9% down on last time. This, said Thorntons, reflected moves to right-size its estate through the closure of 12 stores. But sales were also down, by 3.7%, at the like-for-like level, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, reflecting, said Thorntons, “a continuation of subdued consumer sentiment and weakness in footfall seen since Easter.”

Nonetheless, said the company, full-year pre-tax profits were expected to remain in line with forecasts at £9.65m, up from £7.5m last time.

Jonathan Hart, chief executive of Thorntons, said the company was confident of growing profits in the full year. “We continue to make good progress with our strategy of rebalancing the business and have exciting plans in place for the key Christmas season,” he said.

“We remain mindful that the economic situation is still challenging for many of our shoppers and trade customers, although our growth plans do not depend on an economic upturn.”

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