Thornton's Shares Bomb 18% as Choc Sales Melt
Thornton's Shares Bomb 18% as Choc Sales

Thorntons shares plunged in the market open after the group posted a drop in chocolate sales in the third quarter.

Its shares bombed by over 18% to 116.70p in the opening session after Thorntons said sales in the third quarter (the 15 weeks up to and including 26 April 2014) saw a reduction of 7.6% against the same period last year.

It blamed "the combined effect" of early spring deliveries in its second quarter, slower sales through February.

"Set against the continuing backdrop of a competitive and challenging trading environment the key Easter season saw all our channels delivering sales growth. Customers responded positively to our Easter innovations and we anticipate further good growth in our Easter market share," said Jonathan Hart, Thorntons chief executive, in a statement.

"Despite this third quarter result we are satisfied with the overall performance of the business for the year to date and we look forward to our UK Commercial channel returning to growth in our short final quarter. The Board remains confident that Thorntons will perform in line with market expectations for the full year* and we continue to be confident that our transformation is on track and our strategy is appropriate and working."

For the year to date, UK commercial sales have increased by 8.6% and the Retail division has delivered positive like-for-like growth of 1.8%.

UK Commercial sales declined by 8%.

"A strong Easter performance, where sales of our seasonal specialities grew in excess of 20%, was offset by the impact of the early spring sales reported in the second quarter combined with slower sales in February and March and a performance at Valentine's Day and Mother's Day that fell below expectations," it said.

International sales increased by 3.4%, accounting for just under 3% of total revenue.