Thorntons store and cafe Belfast - outside

Thorntons shut all 61 of its remaining high-street stores in March 2021

Thorntons has improved losses thanks to the shuttering of its entire retail estate, but revenues also tumbled as a result.

Pre-tax losses totalled £26.7m in the 12 months ended 31 August 2021 – a 29% improvement on the prior year’s £37.7m – as overheads associated with the retail operations were erased.

It took historic losses at the chocolate maker since the £112m takeover by Ferrero in 2015 to more than £190m.

Revenues slipped by more than £17m to below £100m as ongoing Covid restrictions continued to hamper key trading seasons, including Christmas. Ferrero took the axe to the remaining high street stores in March 2021 after conceding conditions on the high street were “too severe” to continue trading.

However, international sales increased three-fold in the period, climbing from just £4.5m to £12.9m.

It left overall turnover for the year 16.6% lower than 2019/20 at £86.5m.

The fall represents a significant decline from the £200m generated by Thorntons when the Italian confectionery giant took charge of a business with an estate of 242 owned stores and a further 158 franchise outlets.

Ferrero invested another £8m in the manufacturing infrastructure in 2020/21 as it continued with the strategy to turn the Derbyshire factory in a ‘centre of excellence’ and a key hub for the wider Ferrero group.

It takes Ferrero’s investment in Thornton’s to about £55m over the past seven years.

Ferrero said it recognised a turnaround would take time and investment but it remained committed to Thorntons and the UK.

A Ferrero spokeswoman told The Grocer: “As a family company, we are able to think for the long term and we remain committed to the UK as a key strategic market.

“We strongly believe in the UK market’s long-term potential and remain fully committed to our Thorntons business.”

She added: “We have confidence in our strategy for the UK business and remain committed to growing our presence in the sweet packaged foods market. We recognise that this will take time, investment and commitment.”