UK chocolate maker Thorntons today (3 May) blamed the hot weather over Easter for a slump in sales from its own stores - which looks set to hit the company's annual profits.

The company said sales from its namesake stores fell 13.9% to GBP31.4m (US$51.8m) during the 16 weeks to 30 April.

Easter, Thorntons said, accounts for a third of own-store sales during the company's third-quarter. The hot weather over the holiday "significantly impacted" own-store sales - and sales from franchise outlets and from its Thorntons Direct business.

Total sales fell 0.7% to GBP64.2m as the company's commercial sales - including to the UK's multiples - grew 25.1% to GBP27.7m.

However, Thorntons said it expects its pre-tax profits before additional impairment charges to be between GBP3m and GBP4.5m. In its previous fiscal year, they reached GBP6.1m.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart, who joined Thorntons from coffee-shop chain Caffè Nero in January, said the quarter had been "extremely challenging, particularly in our own stores and for franchisees".

He said: "We foresee the prospect of this weakness in high street footfall and spending continuing. We have taken a number of actions including adjusting our trading strategy and aggressively managing our overhead costs, as well as ensuring that our production is geared to likely demand."

The Thorntons chief added: "The process of my strategic review is well under way and I look forward to presenting my conclusions in due course."

Shares in Thorntons were down 7.79% at 74p at 13:35 BST today.