Thorntons, the speciality high street retailer and manufacturer of high quality chocolate, toffee and other confectionery, has today [Tuesday] reported strong sales figures for the 28 weeks ended 12 January 2002, with last minute Christmas shoppers bumping up turnover.

CEO Peter Burdon commented: “I am extremely pleased to be able to report further evidence that progress is being made, in particular we are profitably growing sales in our own store network without seasonal overhang. The Christmas performance was strong and it demanded great teamwork and organisation to be able to deliver these results.”

Total company sales for the period increased by 3% year on year, to £102.4m (US$). Own shop turnover was up 2.1% to £83.7m, which was generated from fewer outlets because the company has continued to reduce shops from 412 to 394 as it sought to improve its shop portfolio. Like-for-like sales climbed 4.1% over the 28 weeks, with a strong Christmas performance (7 weeks to 29th December) up 8%.

E-commerce and Mail Order turnover continuing to grow strongly by 100.1%, reaching £2.5m.

The company said it was on track in its recovery programme, and that store management has improved.

Thorton’s finance director Martin Allen commented:  “We’ve steadied the ship significantly by cutting back on the shop expansion programme and getting our internal processes right.

“Growth is now coming from looking more at the use of brands, franchises, commercial sales and licensed products for supermarkets.”

Thorntons plc will announce its interim results on Tuesday 26 February 2002.