UK chocolateer Thorntons saw sales at its commercial division rise by more than one-fifth during fiscal 2013, more than offsetting declining retail sales as the company increases its commercial focus.

In a trading update this morning (15 July), Thorntons said that total sales in the 12 months to 29 June increased by 3.5% to GBP221.1m (US$332.9m).

Gains were driven by a strong performance from its commercial business, which primarily sells Thorntons branded chocolate through third-party retailers. Commercial sales rose 21.5% to GBP101.2m. During the 12 months, the group was able to further develop the relatively new revenue streams of international and private label, which expanded by 56% and 385% respectively.

The company has looked to refocus its operations on the commercial model, reducing its reliance on its retail sales by closing unprofitable outlets. Thorntons closed 34 company-owned stores during the period. Retail sales were down 8% in the period, declining to GBP119.9m.

Thorntons said that it anticipates full-year profit before tax and certain other items to come in ahead of market expectations. Currently, consensus estimates put PBT at GBP46m.