Thorntons production line

Lower-than-expected performance on Mothers’ Day and at other times in the third quarter delivered a mixed trading picture for confectioner Thorntons in the third quarter.

The retail division enjoyed strong like-for-like sales growth over the key spring seasons of Easter and Valentine’s Day, resulted in an overall flat performance for the 15 weeks up to and including 25 April with like for likes up 0.1% but 1.5% for the year to date.

UK commercial sales declined 6.1% because of fewer orders from one specific customer, which analysts have speculated is Tesco. Sales in retail fell 5.4% to £27.7m.

Thorntons closed five stores during the periods and relocated one other to focus on long-term sustainable locations.

This left it with 243 company-owned outlets at the end of the quarter.

Customers direct sales increased 10.5% and franchise sales declined 15.2%.

The company said specific trading issues in its UK Commercial channel, mentioned at the time of the interim results which impacted on the FMCG division, continued into the second half and contributed to an overall sales decline of 6.7% to £26.5m.

Jonathan Hart, chief executive, said: “The sales decline in UK Commercial is now solely down to reduced levels of orders from one customer which have continued into the second half of the year.

“We are, however, encouraged by positive sales across the balance of our trade partners. Our Easter specialities sold well with these customers and in our Retail channels and we ended the season with clean stocks.”

Hart said the company remained cautious about the outlook for the full year and continued to maintain strict control of costs because the economic situation was still challenging for many of its customers.