Thorntons has hailed an ‘outstanding’ Christmas in its retail division as its like-for-like sales leapt during December.

Thorntons' retail sales jumped over Christmas

The chocolate specialist, which issued a profit warning shortly before Christmas, recorded a 5% increase in like-for-like sales for the 14 weeks to January 10 within its retail division.

Seasonal specialities and advent calendars helped the division to a 7.8% increase in like-for-likes between December 1 and December 24.

Thorntons’ Chief Executive Jonathan Hart said:  “The retail division experienced strong like-for-like sales growth in the quarter with an outstanding Christmas season which highlights our shoppers’ appreciation of our brand, product offering and in-store experience.”

Consumer direct sales increased by 13.0% during the period, while the retailer’s franchise sales declined by 6.4%.

Total sales across the retail division declined by 2.4% to £44.9m as it closed four stores to reduce its owned stores to 247 at the end of the quarter.

Fast-moving consumer goods division

However, Thorntons was dragged back by its FMCG business as the division’s sales declined 10.3% to £41.9m.

Hart added: “Alongside very positive results from our retail division for the second year running, we were disappointed that the continued growth we anticipated in the UK commercial channel of our FMCG division had not been delivered. The challenges we experienced within specific grocers accounted for the majority of the share decline.  

“We continue with our transformation towards an FMCG business and the investment in our people, systems and factory is ongoing. We have good plans for the spring seasons and the board remains confident in its multichannel strategy and ongoing transformation.”