Food retailers enjoyed a strong Easter as shoppers flocked to chocolatiers and convenience grocery stores.

Thorntons introduced new products, including a Black Forest Gateau egg

Specialist Thorntons now expects full-year pre-exceptional pre-tax profits to be ahead of expectations at £3.1m after a strong Easter trading period, one of its busiest times of the year.

The retailer introduced a variety of new products including Easter egg-hunt packs and Black Forest gateau eggs.

Hotel Chocolat’s sales over the weekend were up 20% on last year. Chief executive Angus Thirlwell said that the retailer enjoyed its best-ever online performance last Tuesday following its TV advertising debut.

Tesco also reported a busy Easter weekend at its Express convenience chain as Sunday trading laws prohibit larger stores from opening on Easter Sunday. So as a result, convenience stores can enjoy as strong trading over Easter as they do over Christmas.

A Tesco spokeswoman told Retail Week: “Tesco Express stores remained open across the bank holiday weekend to offer customers the usual range of grocery staples.

“Our Express stores proved particularly popular with customers shopping for their last-minute bank holiday essentials.”

She also said lines produced by its Euphorium bakery chain proved popular in seven of Tesco’s central London stores and will feature in additional shops in the coming year.

Springboard figures showed footfall across all retail destinations rose 6% over Good Friday and Saturday compared with last year.

Footfall jumped 7.4% in shopping centres, 6.7% on the high street and 4% at out-of-town retail parks over the two days.

However, sales at garden centres were “well below what was expected” over the critical Easter weekend as the cold weather continued to bite.

Garden Centre Association chairman Peter Burks said while footfall at members’ centres was up despite the wintry conditions, shoppers were mainly browsing or spending in coffee shops and buying gifts instead. He said: “The cold weather appeared to put people off going out in their gardens. Overall sales were well below what was expected.”