In the 11 weeks up to the 30 June, the company said overall sales were £26.5m, with full year sales growing 5.3 per cent on last year to £186m. Earlier this year Thorntons announced sales were struggling, particularly due to the heat of last summer. Sales in the first quarter of this year declined 7.6 per cent. From September 2006, the company took on various marketing strategies to help improve sales. It invested £1m (€1.5m) in improving stores and increased product range to appeal to more customers. This helped own store sales to increase by 19.1 per cent during the fourth quarter on the same quarter last year, and 1.7 per cent for the full year. The company said like-for-like sales increased by 7.2 per cent for the first quarter and by 0.8 per cent for the full year. "Like for like sales growth remains a solid achievement and underlines the progress made in the delivery of our sales and marketing led strategy," said Thorntons' chief executive Mike Davies yesterday. Franchise sales increased by 25.9 per cent during this quarter and 1.5 per cent for the full year. Thorntons said that this increase was helped by an improved product range. Last year the company launched a single organic line of chocolates, including different types of chocolate from Java, Cuba, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Sao Tome, as well as an organic truffle selection. This followed the building consumer demand for organic foods and organic ingredients. An increase in marketing for online subsidiary Thorntons Direct helped sales grow by 60.2 per cent for the fourth quarter, bringing total sales up to £6.8m (€10m), an increase of 22.9 per cent on the previous year. Commercial sales grew by 53.5 per cent to £5.2m (€7.7m) in this quarter due to the expansion of the business with other retailers, the company said. Full year sales in the commercial sales business were up 18.5 per cent to £35.1m (€78.7m), following partnerships with Tesco, Safeway and Morrissons.