New Thorntons boss Jonathan Hart has vowed to "rekindle the spark" in chocolate by overhauling the chocolatier's flagging retail business.

The former Caffé Nero MD joined Thorntons last month to restore momentum to its high street arm.

Own-store trading again dragged down Thorntons' performance, with sales down 5.9% to £74.1m in the 28 weeks to 8 January and franchise sales down 4.9% to £7.8m. Both were hit by the severe weather. Pre-tax profits were 8.5% lower at £8.3m, down from £9.1m in 2009. But Thorntons' commercial and online channels buoyed the overall performance, up 30.6% and 8.5% respectively.

Thorntons will review the future of 220 stores with leases up for renewal over the next three financial years. Hart told The Grocer no decision had been made on how many would close but said it was "clear the portfolio would reduce". The review will be completed by the end of the year.

Despite the tough retail environment ahead, Hart said he was confident of rekindling a positive customer experience of chocolate.

"I think we can rediscover some spark with items such as personalisation, which we were once famous for, to engage our customers to come back to our stores more often," he commented.