Thorntons has recorded a 5.6% rise in total sales in the fourth quarter as its plan to rebalance the business towards its commercial arm bears fruit.

The retailer reported an 11.8% rise in sales in its UK commercial division – which supplies grocers and general merchandise retailers – to £9.2m in the 10 weeks to June 29. Total commercial sales rose 21.1%.

Own-store like-for-like sales increased by 0.5%. Overall sales in own stores declined 3.8% to £13.9m as a result of the 34 store closures during the year.

Thorntons said international sales more than doubled to £900,000 while private-label sales were £700,000, a slowdown from £1.7m in the previous quarter. During the quarter, franchise sales increased by £200,000 to £1.3m while online sales decreased by £100,000 to £800,000.

Full-year sales rose 3.5% with commercial up 21.5% and retail sales down 8%. Full-year retail like-for-likes fell 0.8%.

The retailer said it anticipates pre-tax profits to be ahead of the current market consensus of £4.6m.

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “Despite being our smallest sales quarter we have continued to demonstrate the positive impact of our strategy and the strength of our brand.

“Our UK commercial sales growth and market share remain strong and our own stores have now delivered positive like-for-like growth across the whole of the second half of this year. We are on track with our store closure programme and have refurbished seven stores to our new format in the period under review.”

He added: “The trading environment continues to be challenging. The actions we have taken are delivering positive results reflected by the progressive recovery in our profitability over the past 18 months.”