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Website delays hit Thorntons’ online sales

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Thorntons has reported “disappointing” online performance, after delays in launching a new website hit sales.

The chocolate manufacturer and retailer’s ecommerce sales fell by 11.9% to £5.9m in the 28 weeks to January 12, from £6.7m at the same time last year, as a result of delays to the launch of its new website. The site launched in the autumn without full functionality and consumer offer. “This was compounded,” said the company, “by operational issues at our peak period during which we moderated marketing efforts in order to protect customer service.”

The issues were now being resolved, Thorntons said as it reported its half-year results today, and “good growth” was now expecting during the spring. “We remain confident of the significant potential to grow the consumer online element of this channel and will seek to invest further in developing this important contributor to our multichannel offer,” it said.

Across the business as a whole, however, revenues rose by 2.9% to £133.7m in the period as commercial sales grew by 16.1% to £51.8m. Pre-tax profits rose to £4.6m from £0.6m last time.

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “We are encouraged by the overall progress we made during the first half of the year. This performance demonstrates that our strategy is generating results as we continue rebalance the business, revitalise the brand and restore profitability.

“Our customers have responded positively to our increased focus on innovation, value and service and our market share has grown further. This reflects the continued strength of the Thorntons brand across our multichannel distribution model.”

Elsewhere, international sales grew by 57.7% to £4.1m, and there was also growth in private label sales. But own-store sales fell by 8.3%, following store closures, and like-for-like sales by 1.5% to £62.6m. Franchise sales fell by 25.4% to £5m following the administration of its major franchisee.

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