ThorntonsChocolate retailer Thorntons has described a 70% rise in half-year profits as an "important step" in the company's turnaround push.

The improvement to £5.3 million for the six months to January 12 followed a big jump in supermarket sales of chocolate boxes as it looks to offset ongoing tough trading conditions for its retail estate.


Chief executive Jonathan Hart said there was still much for the retailer to do, particularly with it facing key tests for Mother's Day and Easter.

The company is pinning its hopes for this spring on improved presentation and marketing and greater space for its long-running Continental range.

Revenues rose 2.9% to £133.7 million, with an 8% decline in own-store sales to £62.6 million - following the closure of 13 stores - offset by a 16% improvement in sales from commercial channels.

Thorntons ended the half year with 317 stores but expects to close around 40 across the year to June as it works towards a core estate of 180 to 200 sites. Many of the closures will happen as shop leases expire.

Mr Hart added: "Despite an encouraging performance during the first half of financial year, we recognise this as a single and important step in a journey that will still take several years."

Thorntons shares jumped 10% following the update.

Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec Securities, said the results were further evidence that the company's strategy was working.

She added: "As ever for Thorntons, trading over Mothers' Day and Easter will define the full year outcome."