Thorntons has reported a decline in half-year profits, blaming the harsh winter weather for hitting sales.

Pre-tax profits fell 8.5% to £8.3m for the 28 weeks ended 8 January, down from £9.1m for the previous year.

Group sales were up 4.8% to £133.5m but the company offered a cautious outlook on own-store trading for the remainder of the year.

Own-Store sales declined 5.9% to £74.1m in the first half and like-for-like sales were down 5.2%.

Thornton’s commercial channel bolstered its overall performance, with sales up 30.6% to £45.2m. The company said improved functionality on its Thorntons Direct website had buoyed sales for the period to £6.4m, up from £5.9m a year earlier.

“Trading in our own stores will remain difficult,” said Thorntons chairman John von Spreckelsen.

“However, we are entering a period when a significant number of our own store leases will be approaching renewal. This will provide the opportunity to change the size and shape of the own store portfolio.”

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Sales up but Thorntons could close stores this year (14 January 2011)