The UK premium chocolate producer and retailer Thorntons has said its sales improved in the second quarter after the negative impact of hot summer weather.

Reporting its trading progress for the 28-week period to 6 January, the company said that like-for-like sales in its own stores rose by 3.2% final four weeks of the period which included Christmas. This followed a 3.5% decline in the first quarter.

Thorntons said sales benefited from a renewed focus on enhancing the customer offer, increased product innovation and further investment in the seasonal gift ranges.  Franchise sales mirrored own shop sales with a disappointing summer and improvement later in the year, the company said. Eight new franchisees were added in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

However, Thorntons said that commercial sales suffered from the impact of the voluntary delisting of one major High Street account and its subsequent relisting. Sales at Thorntons Direct increased by 19.1% as a result of significant investment in the website and increased marketing, the company added.

"On the whole, we have made steady progress following a difficult start to the year," said CEO Mike Davies. "The investment made across all the sales channels in the first half produced an improved Q2 performance. This investment together with new sales and cost initiatives positions us well to deliver overall sales growth in the second half."
Thorntons has embarked on a major store modernisation programme, which it said was progressing on schedule, with some 176 fascia upgrades and store refits being completed in the 28-week period.