Thorntons has reported a dip in like-for-like sales of 6.6 per cent for the 12 weeks to December 27.

The chocolate retailer reported own store sales declined 5.4 per cent to£51.8 million. Total sales fell 2.3 per cent.

Thorntons chief executive Mike Davies said: “The retail environment has been very challenging in recent months with weak high street footfall and consumer demand. We are pleased to report that our policy of offering discounts in line with other retailers has meant that we were able to clear all Christmas stock by the end of the period.”

Thorntons reported franchise sales increased 2.7 per cent to£6.2 million, mainly driven by the addition of nine new franchisees. Sales at Thorntons Direct grew 3.5 per cent to£4 million, and commercial sales grew by 5.9 per cent to£15.6 million.

Davies said: “Under these circumstances, the board expects profits for the 28 weeks ending 10 January 2009 to be not less than£7 million with EBITDA in excess of£14 million. Going forward, we remain focused on delivering against our strategy of long term profitable growth through product innovation, improving the in-store environment and excellent customer service but with even greater focus on managing our costs.”

Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander analyst Matthew McEachran said: “Notwithstanding the weak retail trends, discounting has been able to control stocks and Christmas ranges were cleared by the end of the period, albeit at the expense of gross margins. Management has indicated an even greater focus on costs which could provide some offset to lost margin next year.”