Peter Burdon, chief executive of Thorntons, is to leave the company as soon as an appropriate replacement can be found.

Executive chairman John von Spreckelsen announced Burdon's planned departure at the same time that the retailer revealed a 36% fall in profits for the first half of this year, driven by poor performance in its stores and the negative impact of the hot summer.

Pre-tax profits tumbled from £8.1m to £5.2m for

the year to 24 June, while like-for-like sales were down 3.7% during the

same period.

Burdon joined Thorntons in 2000 from Boots, where he had occupied a variety of positions. His last role at Boots was that of trading director.

Prior to working for the high street chemist and health and beauty retailer, he has worked for management consultants McKinsey & Co.

What he plans to do after his departure is unclear.

Von Spreckelsen,

who joined the company

in June this year, said:

"On behalf of the board

I would like to thank

Peter for his considerable contribution to the

company over the past years and wish him all the best for the future."

Susan Gordon, analyst at Charles Stanley Securities, said: "The announcement of the departure of the chief executive completes a range of board changes since von Spreckelsen was appointed as executive chairman

earlier this year."

John Thornton, the last remaining family member of Thorntons, who had worked for the company since 1966, retired from the board of directors earlier this month.

His departure was closely followed by that of John Jackson, who also retired from his position as non-executive director, and was replaced with immediate effect by former executive chairman of RHM Paul Wilkinson.