Chocolatier Thorntons first half pre-tax profits before exceptionals jumped £2.2m to £5.3m as sales edged up 2.9% to £133.7m.

UK commercial sales helped drive the performance, soaring 16.1% to £51.8m in the 28 weeks to January 12.

However, company-owned store sales plunged 8.3% to £62.6m as it closed a further 13 stores as part of its turnaround strategy to concentrate on its commercial arm. Like-for-likes dipped 1.5% over the period.

Franchise sales plummeted 25.4% to £5m after its major franchisee Clintons crashed into administration in May last year.

Thorntons’ online sales tumbled 11.9% to £5.9m which it said was due to the late deployment of its new website and operational issues during peak trading.

Overseas sales rocketed 57.7% to £4.1m while sales of private label increased from £800,000 to £3.9m.

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart said he was encouraged by its first half performance. He said: “This demonstrates that our strategy is generating results as we continue to rebalance the business, revitalise the brand and restore profitability.

“Our customers have responded positively to our increased focus on innovation, value and service and our market share has grown further. This reflects the continued strength of the Thorntons brand across our multi-channel distribution model.”