Thorntons could close as many as 180 stores over the next three years as part of its turnaround plan.

Announcing the findings of a wide-ranging strategic review, the chocolatier today said it would close at least 120 stores as leases expired, with a further 60 in doubt.

Thorntons currently runs 364 stores of its own, with 227 other sites run on a franchise basis. In total, around 4,000 staff are employed at the stores.

Closed own stores will be replaced with franchises in most locations, Thorntons said. Online service Thorntons Direct will be more closely aligned with the own-store offer, which Thorntons said would be “less seasonal” in future.

The restructure is expected to deliver annual savings of more than £2m from its supply chain.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart insisted Thorntons remained “a highly valuable brand with excellent potential”.

“Our goal is to refocus the business across all channels and seek to deliver industry-competitive returns over the next three to five years,” he said. “Although we see the prospect of weakness in high street footfall and consumer sentiment continuing, I am confident this strategy is right.”

The proposals come after Thorntons posted a 22.8% decline in like-for-like sales over Easter, blaming the hot weather. It warned that profits for the year would be down on last year's mark of £6.1m.

Read more
Acid Test: Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur (18 June 2011)
Easter scorcher turns up the heat on Thorntons (3 May 2011)
Sales up but Thorntons could close stores this year (14 January 2011)