Thorntons said sales from FMCG division - which includes sales to supermarkets - surpassed retail revenues for first time

Thorntons said sales from FMCG division - which includes sales to supermarkets - surpassed retail revenues for first time

UK chocolate manufacturer and retailer Thorntons has reported half-year profits ahead of market expectations.

The company booked a 47.3% increase in pre-tax profits before tax and exceptional items to GBP7.2m (US$12m) for the 28 weeks to 11 January.

Revenues rose 4.5% to GBP139.7m with sales from Thorntons' FMCG division - which sells into mainstream grocers - surpassing turnover from its own stores.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said: "We are pleased to report further increases in both revenues and profits as we continue on our journey of transforming Thorntons towards an international FMCG business and UK multi-channel retailer."

Thorntons said its FMCG division saw sales climb 14.5% to GBP70.6m as the company increased its distribution.

The business unit also includes Thorntons' sales outside the UK, which were reached GBP4.5m, up from GBP4.1m a year ago.

Thorntons' international focus is on Australia, South Africa and the UAE. The company said it was putting in place "supply chain relationships" to build a "year-round business" in these markets.

Sales from Thorntons' own retail division fell 4% to GBP69.1m thanks to the company's recent store closures. Thorntons sells from a mix of its own stores and franchise outlets. Own-store sales dropped 6% to GBP58.8m. At the end of the period, Thorntons had 281 outlets after closing 15. 

Thorntons said a "good" first half from its own stores, plus a "resurgent" online business, meant like-for-like sales from its retail arm were up 2.1%. In the first half of Thorntons' last financial year, retail like-for-like sales were down 2.2%.

Charles Stanley analyst Peter Smedley said: "Today's H1 FY14 results are a positive profits surprise and may well prompt small upgrades despite the critical Easter period still to be navigated."

Shares in Thorntons were up 0.33% at 154p at 14:50 GMT.