Chocolatier Thorntons has hailed a strong Christmas performance, despite the snow wiping up to £3.5 million from its sales.
The retailer reported strong demand for seasonal products such as advent calendars, Christmas hampers and traditional lines including chocolate-smothered fruits which helped push group sales up by 3.9% in the final quarter of 2010.
But the Arctic weather in December kept many shoppers away from its 371 company-owned stores, which saw like-for-like sales decline by 5.9%.
It said its own-store sales would have improved on last year, when like-for-likes were down by 4.4%, if not for the snow.
Its 229 franchise stores saw sales decline by 2.2% over the quarter but its other divisions such as its delivery service and commercial arm, which sells to supermarkets, reported sales up by 7.6% and 35.9% respectively.
Thorntons put on more promotions and produced smaller, more affordable packs to tempt consumers who were keeping a tight rein on expenses, said finance director Mark Robson.
Mr Robson, who was acting chief executive over the period, said: “We are pleased with the sales and we believe the own-store sales decline would have slowed without the impact of the weather. The performance of the stores is encouraging but I wouldn’t say it has turned the corner yet.
“Customers are becoming more price-conscious and the economic climate is toughening but we have carefully selected promotions and half-price boxes to complement our normal offer.”
Thorntons has closed three of its company owned stores over the past year and Mr Robson said it would consider closing other stores when leases come up for renewal in the coming year.
The retailer recently brought in Jonathan Hart from Caffe Nero as its new chief executive, chosen for his retail expertise.