Thorntons is exploring export opportunities for its famous chocolate brand, as it seeks to push its business internationally.

The chocolatier, which reported better than expected full-year results on Wednesday, said it is developing an export operation, which will likely result in Thorntons wholesaling to international retailers.

Thorntons has appointed David Proctor as head of international to explore export sales. He also remains head of purchasing and supply.

Thorntons chief executive Mike Davies said: “It is very early days but we believe there are lots of opportunities overseas for our brand.”

Thorntons, which said that pre-tax profit pre-exceptionals decreased 25.8% to £6.3m, ahead of the consensus of £5.4m with sales up 3.2% to £214.8m, is also in talks with other retailers in the UK to open concessions, following the collapse of Birthdays.

Thorntons said franchise store sales were up 2.2% for the year but were affected by the loss of its 94 Birthdays concessions closing. Davies said 37 of its 94 concessions have now re-opened as they were part of the group bought back by Clinton Cards, and a total of 75 have now re-opened, some with independent franchisees.

Davies also said that there were opportunities in the property market and it is pursuing opportunities to reduce costs at lease renewals, and renegotiating service charges. “The property market is unsettled and rents are likely to fall further so we will open new stores but will take our time,” said Davies.

He added that Thorntons now has six stores in the new format it launched late last year and has “used some of those learnings in other stores”. However, he admitted “the end of last year was probably not the right time to launch our new format so we will wait a while before going full steam ahead with a roll-out.”

During the year, net debt was reduced by £1.6m and since the year end the retailer agreed new banking facilities for a further three years. Overall UK retail sales, including own store, franchise and Thorntons Direct declined 0.5% to £157.9m. Thorntons said Christmas hit sales in the year but its cost management efficiencies paid off in the second half, supported by a 6.1% uplift.