UK premium chocolate maker and retailer Thorntons has reported a 5% rise in turnover for the year to 25 June and said it was a year of further progress.

Turnover was £187.7m (US$346.2m) for the 52-week period, compared to £178.7m a year earlier. Sales in Thorntons’ own shops, which account for 70% of sales, were down by 2%. On a like-for-like basis, the decline was only 0.7%.

The part of the business that accounted for most of the growth in turnover was the sale of a selected range of Thorntons branded products into other retailers, principally the major supermarket groups. Here sales grew from £10.0m last year to £22.3m this year, an increase of 123%.

“Having now established a presence in this important retail channel we would expect the rate of growth to decline to a more modest level,” the company said.

Profit before tax rose 16.4% to £8.2m, compared to £7.0m in the previous year.

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“The business achieved further growth despite the difficult retail environment (…) Total sales in the first few weeks of the new financial year, traditionally our weakest period, are running slightly below last year,” said executive chairman Christopher Burnett.

Thorntons said that in the coming year, it aims to increase like-for-like sales by increasing investment in advertising by over 50% to attract more people into its stores, by improving the retail environment and refitting certain stores, and by investing in packaging, particularly of gift-related products.

On 19 August 2005, the company announced that it had received a pre-conditional offer proposal from Christopher Burnett regarding a possible offer for the company at 185p per share.

“Christopher Burnett is continuing to hold discussions with potential funders and a further announcement will be made in due course,” Thorntons said.