Thorntons wants to maintain a presence in locations where it shuts its company-owned stores via franchise partnerships.

The chocolatier, which revealed in June it wants to shut 120 stores and possibly 60 more, will work with franchise partners.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “We would like to retain our customers in those areas where we shut stores and by partnering with franchises we can do that.

Hart said Thorntons has 227 franchisees and it would seek new agreements wherever possible.“We expect to see around half the level of sales from those stores coming out of a franchise.”

Thorntons expects to operate between 180 and 200 own stores, and reported a dip in pre-tax profits for the year to June 25 to £4.3m. Sales were up by 1.7% to £218.3m; like-for-like sales in its own stores business were down 7.9%.