Thorntons struggles to claw back sales

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fudge, Chocolate, Papua new guinea, Thorntons

UK chocolate maker Thorntons is rolling out a raft of new measures
to combat a sales slump that has been dogging the company for the
past year.

The premium chocolate producer has announced a drop in operating profit from £10.4m (€15.3m) to £7.3m (€10.7m) and a 3.7 per cent reduction in like for like sales over the year. On the back of the results Chief Executive Peter Burdon decided to step down from his post with the company.

Like many confectioners, the company felt the heat this summer with high temperatures dampening consumer demand and failing to rescue sales from a disappointing seasonal drop.

High street sales in the company's own outlets fell by 5.3 per cent to £127m (€187m) with the company blaming the slump on poor Christmas trading and the closure of several shops.

In order to reverse the disappointing downturn, Thorntons are concentrating on improving its own UK stores - investing £1m (€0.68m) in the upgrade - and site acquisitions for further outlets and cafes.

In addition, the luxury chocolate maker, who also sell through an online subsidiary Thorntons Direct, will be introducing a new range of products accompanied by an increased marketing drive to strengthen the brand.

In order to appeal to the growing numbers of consumers who are taking an active interest in the sourcing of their chocolate ingredients, the company is launching a single origin line and a organic truffle selection.

The single origin range will include five different types of chocolate from Java, Cuba, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Sao Tome.

Chief executive Peter Burdon said: "Conscious of the shifting tastes of consumers, we are in the process of launching two new boxed collections which reflect the increasing levels of consumer interest with regards to the provenance of what they eat."

And from Autumn 2006, a promotional campaign will be rolled out, emphasising the quality of Thorntons' premium ingredients and its new range of products.

In terms of energy costs, which have caused problems for manufacturers throughout the food industry, the fudge and toffee maker said it expected costs to rise by around £1m (€0.68m) in the next year but planned to absorb the expense through better sourcing and improved manufacturing efficiency.

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