Thorntons, the UK-based speciality retailer and manufacturer of chocolate, toffee and other sweet special foods, has reported steady like-for-like sales growth in the first few weeks of the new financial year and is readying itself for a busy Christmas period.
Speaking at yesterday's AGM, Thorntons' chairman John Thornton told shareholders: "At the time of publishing the annual report in early September, own shop like-for-like sales were above last year in each of the first nine weeks and by 6.8 per cent in total.
"Since then this general trend has continued and all other areas of the business are, overall, in line with management expectations."
He continued: "The first 17 weeks of this financial year [to mid-October] represents approximately 20 per cent of our annual sales. The key selling period is over the Christmas season, and we have strong product and advertising programmes planned throughout this period."
He added that a further sales update would be given in January 2003.
Last month the company reported the first rise in like-for-like sales in three years, helped by revamping its stores, introducing a number of coffee shop outlets and selling its products via a number of supermarket groups.
But it is the core selling period of Christmas which will test whether these steps in the right direction will continue. Thorntons remained cautiously optimistic about its future prospects, but has decided to focus on developing the sucessful formulas it has already introduced - by extending the range of retail products produced under its name, for example - rather than looking for more new business areas.
A case of doing what it does best, only better?