Thorntons faces a period “in limbo” after chief executive Mike Davies stepped down on Tuesday.

Davies, who will remain in his post until a new boss is found, has decided to retire following a profit warning at the company.

Execution Noble analyst Sanjay Vidyarthi said: “It is likely to be several months before the appointment of a new chief executive and some time beyond that before a new strategy is formulated. With trading likely to be difficult in the meantime, the shares and the investment case are likely to be in limbo.”

Thorntons said that, since it last updated on April 20, the company had “continued to experience a tough trading environment in own-stores” and that there had been a “temporary decline” in sales through other retailers.

The retailer said: “Our own-store sales have continued to experience like-for-like declines, together with higher-than-anticipated discount costs on clearing excess stocks. Commercial sales were also lower than expected during the end of April and early May, but these have since recovered.”

Chairman John von Spreckelsen will assume Davies’ responsibilities until a replacement is found.

Thorntons said that in the past four years Davies led its restructuring and “significantly improved its manufacturing operations, the product range and the performance of its commercial channel”. The retailer added that, during Davies’ time in charge, it had “increased its branded market share and grew sales year on year”.

Vidyarthi said: “We have highlighted before the tension Thorntons faces between own-store and supermarket sales. While management has acknowledged that the number of own-stores needs to reduce, it has not accepted the need for radical action.”

Thorntons will update on trading fully on July 14.