A spokesperson for the company said Thorntons’ brand will continue to be available in supermarkets and other retailers, while its factory in Alfreton, Derbyshire, will produce chocolate for international markets.
The brand was bought in 2015 by Ferrero for a £112m ($154m) deal when Thorntons ran 242 stores in Britain and Ireland. The company reported a pre-tax loss of £35m in August 2020 and is the latest well-known high street brand to fall victim to the Covid crisis where lockdowns have occurred during its peak times of Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Analyst Kevin Mountford, co-founder of savings platform, Raisin UK, told ConfectioneryNews: "Casualties on the high street only seem to continue, as Thorntons announce they are closing all stores from the high street and will be making up to 600 staff redundant. Senior figures from Thorntons described the obstacles the chain faced on the high street as 'too severe' as a result of the pandemic, but it may be that COVID-19 was the final nail in the coffin instead of the outright cause for this chocolatier's collapse.
“The brand has seen strong competition from the likes of Hotel Chocolat, and has seen its number of stores more than half over the past five years. The brand, which has been a staple of the British high street for more than a hundred years hasn't yet confirmed whether it will remain as a solely online model - but it's clear that it's the latest in a long line of British stalwarts unable to weather the pandemic storm."
Thorntons has blamed the changing dynamics of the high street and the shift to online retail, as well as the pandemic, for its decision, according to a company statement.
“Unfortunately like many other retailers, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe,” said Adam Goddard, Thorntons’ retail director. “Despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to go into full consultation to start the permanent closure of our retail store estate.
“As customers continue to change the way they shop, we must change with them.”
Thorntons said online sales have continued to perform well, with sales over the last year up by 71% compared with the year before.
The historic chocolate company was founded in Sheffield in 1911 by Joseph Thornton using the slogan “Chocolate heaven since 1911”. It floated on the stock market in 1987, but has since struggled with competition from international rivals and has lost more than £100m since the Ferrero takeover in 2015.
Regarding the 600 staff whose jobs are at risk, the company said they will receive relocation support if they apply successfully for vacancies at Thorntons’ sites in Alfreton or Greenford in west London.