Struggling chocolatier Thorntons has revealed total sales fell 2.7% to £62.4m in the 16 weeks to April 28.

The number includes the impact of the store closure programme. Excluding store closures, sales were broadly flat.

In its company owned stores like-for-likes fell 1.6% while total sales declined 6.1% to £29.4m.

Thorntons said the improvement in the underlying like-for-like decline was “supported by a successful Easter trading period”.

A further 11 Thorntons-owned stores were closed in the quarter, in line with the retailer’s strategy.

Franchised sales increased 12.6% to £3.1m.

Commercial sales slipped 0.9% to £27.4m.

Thorntons Direct sales increased 2.2% to £2.5m as a “successful” Easter contributed to good growth.

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “We saw a good performance at Easter across all our channels and were pleased by our customers’ response to our new spring seasonal lines. However, sales of our all year-round products in the Commercial channel were lower as the difficult consumer environment continues.

“We continue to focus on restoring profitability and we are seeing early signs of progress resulting in an overall satisfactory trading performance.”

Thorntons is suffering amid tough competition from the supermarkets. Pretax profit fell £8.4m to £3.1m in the 28 weeks to January 7.

The chocolatier closed 120 shops last year, and are mulling more closures this year.

Neil Saunders, Managing Director of Conlumino, said: “In our view Thorntons’ remains a company in decline. Its brand is simply less relevant than it once was, its ability to extract a premium for its product has been much reduced and it faces more and much tougher competition on both the retail and the wholesale front.

“None of this means to say that there isn’t a future for Thorntons; there probably is. However, that future will be a much smaller company with a lower proportion of sales driven through the retail channel.

“The next couple of years will be about managing this decline and putting the company back on a sound footing.”