Thorntons, the specialist chocolatier, reported like-for-like sales down 5.9% in company-owned stores over Christmas as the snow kept shoppers away.

Own-store sales slid 6.8% in total to £48.2m, but at group level rose 3.9% to £83.7m. Franchised store sales also suffered because of the weather and were down 2.2% to £5.1m.

The poor performance of company stores was counterbalanced by commercial sales through other retailers, up 33.7% to £25.3m, and a 7.6% increase in direct sales, including online, to £5.1m.

Thorntons chairman John von Spreckelsen said he was “cautiously optimistic” about prospects in the current financial year and that Easter orders from commercial customers have been “encouraging” so far.