Thorntons has said its turnaround strategy has delivered success and is now focusing on a year-round sales strategy, after revealing a 47% jump in pre-tax profits for the first half of the year.
Speaking to Retail Week, chief executive Jonathan Hart said that a restructure of the business which started just under three years ago had delivered “significant success” in growing sales and making the business fit for purpose in the modern world.
Thorntons revealed pre-tax profits of £7.2m for the 28 weeks to January 11th, up from £4.9m in the same period last year, driven largely by a major growth in FMCG sales.
Hart said that as part of the strategy to revitalise the brand, he wants to drive sales throughout the year, not just across traditional calendar peaks which currently account for 50% of sales.
He said: “We want to have more of a year-round presence outside of Christmas and Easter. We found that most of our customers were only visiting once or twice a year.”
Thorntons will increase its focus on emotional gift purchases by refurbishing stores to give them more of a “florist” feel and encourage shoppers to use chocolates as a replacement for greetings cards and flowers.
Hart said that three years ago the retailer was grappling with a bloated property portfolio with “too many stores in the wrong locations”. At its peak Thorntons had over 360 stores across the UK.
Following an ongoing store disposal programme which has already seen the chocolatier shed 120 sites since 2011, FMCG sales now eclipse retail sales and are growing at a faster rate. In the first half of the year FMCG sales increased by 14.5% compared with like-for-like store sales which grew by only 2.1%.
Hart added that he is planning cautious international expansion of the Thorntons FMCG operations, supplying direct to grocers and supermarkets in selected countries.
“We are learning as we go,” he said. “We’re not going to rush at this, we are focused on the UK, but there’s an opportunity there to grow over the next few years.”