Thorntons: Life not so sweet for chocolate maker as high street woes continue

28th June 2011

But the announcement may also be as much to do changing consumer behaviour than the end of the traditional high street itself.

On The Guardian website it was reported that Thorntons would 'definitely close 120' of its shops over the next three years, as their leases expire, and a further 60 could also be shuttered.

The report mentions that a month ago Thorntons announced a profits warning blaming the unusually sunny Easter.

On the Financial Times website (paywall) the woes of other high street retailers are also reported with Carpetright announcing store closures.

The flooring chain reduced its number of outlets by 27 to 559 in the year to April, and is now looking to “reduce stores numbers without compromising our ability to serve customers” as it committed to a further rationalisation of its high street and retail park presence.

Lord Harris of Peckham, Carpetright’s chairman and chief executive, said "With leases on 94 stores in our estate due to expire in the next five years, we have ample opportunity to reshape the portfolio, reduce the size of store footprints and lower our ongoing rent roll."

Carpetright, which issued two profits warnings earlier this year, saw total group revenue fall by 6 per cent from £516m to £486m as pre-tax profits dropped from £22m to £6.6m in the year to April 30. Underlying profits were down 40 per cent to £17m.

Thorntons and Carpetright's losses follow the fortunes of fashion retailer Jane Norman, which closed its stores over the weekend and is now in administration.

The chain is likely to be put into pre-packaged administration – a controversial practice explained by the Guardian here.

The Management Today website comments that  "Britain may be in the middle of a heat wave, but it's looking like a miserable summer for the high street."

MT reports that Thorntons had been showing signs of distress for a few months now: "like many retailers, it blamed the icy snap over Christmas for a fall in sales".

The burst of hot weather combined with a late Easter – which usually accounts for about a third of Thornton's sales in the first part of the year – certainly didn't help.

However there are larger forces at work. including reduced consumer spending and slow wage growth that could mean it will be. "a long, grim year for the high street".

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