Thorntons has revealed 4.5% drop in pre-tax profit to £8.1m but showed signs of recovery in the second half.

For the year ending June 27, the chocolatier reported sales increased 3.2% to £214.8m.

Chief executive Mike Davies said: “From a retail perspective, the peak of the [economic] crisis, in the eight to ten weeks before Christmas, could not have hit us at a worse time, as historically 40% of Thorntons’ annual sales and most of its profits are generated during the Christmas quarter. This reinforces the importance of our long term goal to reduce our financial dependency on Christmas.”

Davies said the decision to focus the balance sheet, by discounting to clear stocks and implementing further cost management initiatives going forward, “paid off in the second half”, and meant a 6.1% sales growth.

Net debt was reduced by £1.6m over the year, and since the year end Thorntons has agreed new banking facilities for a further three years.

UK retail sales – including own store, franchise and Thorntons Direct – declined by 0.5% to £157.9m.

During the year, Thorntons launched a new Choc Block range and refreshed its Christmas and Spring ranges. It also invested in its Epos system.

Davies said Thorntons is “well placed to continue its long term growth strategy and we remain optimistic about the future”.