Sales have slumped again at Thorntons in a dismal first-quarter performance.

The confectioner said group sales were down 7.6% to £46.5m in the 14 weeks to 1 October.

Sales in the commercial channel fell almost 5% from the equivalent period last year. Thorntons said the change was due to retailers’ Christmas orders now falling in the second quarter and claimed its “order book for Christmas trading… remains strong”.

But own-store sales continued their long-term slide, down almost 8% on a like-for-like basis over the period and down more than 10% overall. Franchise sales fell by more than 6%.

"As expected, the retail environment continues to be challenging with weakness in high street footfall,” said chief executive Jonathan Hart.

“Our consumers remain cost-conscious and continue to select promoted products. Our programme to improve own-store merchandising and layout launches in October.

"We are now starting to roll out our new ranges of 'little gifts' into the stores and are pleased with our strong Christmas seasonal offer across all channels.”

Hart said he expected “to report strong year-on-year growth” in the commercial channel by the end of the next quarter.

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