Thorntons sales increased 2.1% to £47m in its first quarter despite a 5.7% sales drop across the chocolatier’s retail division.

In the 14 weeks to October 5 Thorntons closed eight stores in the period, pushing retail sales down to £23.2m. This reduced the store estate to 288 by the end of the quarter.

Like-for-likes slipped 0.4%.

Consumer direct sales returned to growth, increasing 14.2%, while franchise sales, which comprise a small part of the total, surged 17.3%.

Thorntons’ performance was driven by its FMCG division where sales grew 11% to £23.8m. UK commercial sales rose 11.2% while international sales increased 36.1% but the retailer said this division remains a small part of overall sales.

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “We are pleased with the performance of both our operating divisions in the first quarter, and we have made further good progress in rebalancing revenues towards our FMCG division.  

“We have an exciting Christmas offer across the business and are encouraged by the strong order book within our FMCG division.  This puts us in a good position ahead of the key Christmas trading period.

“While we remain mindful that the economic conditions are still challenging for many of our customers, our current outlook for the financial year remains in line with market expectations.”