Thorntons, the high street chocolate retailer, is permanently closing its shops in Britain, putting 603 jobs at risk.
The retailer, known for its selection boxes, blamed the changing dynamics of the high street, the shift to online shopping and the impact of coronavirus lockdowns.
Adam Goddard, retail director at Thorntons, said: “The obstacles we have faced, and will continue to face, on the high street are too severe and despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to permanently close our retail estate.”
Joseph Thornton founded the retailer as a sweet shop in Sheffield in 1911. It listed in 1988 and was acquired by Ferrero, the Italian chocolatier, in 2015 in a deal valuing it at £112 million. Thorntons was struggling before the pandemic and reported a £35 million loss in the year to the end of August 2019. Lockdown restrictions were in effect during its key trading periods of Easter and Christmas. All of its 61 stores in Britain will close.
Goddard said that more than £45 million has been invested in the brand, including funding to open “new format stores” and cafés.
Thorntons’ chocolates will be sold in supermarkets and by other retailers. Its factory in Alfreton, Derbyshire will remain open and the group is prioritising growth in online sales, which have risen 71 per cent over the past year. “We remain committed to this British brand and will continue to invest further in Thorntons to ensure we evolve with the times,” Goddard said. Store staff will be offered “enhanced redundancy” terms.
The decision by Thorntons is a further blow to Britain’s retailers, which lost almost 10,000 chain stores last year, according to research by PwC and the Local Data company.
Sarah Riding, retail partner at Gowling WLG, the law firm, said: “If ever there was a sign that e-commerce takes the lion’s share, even where niche retail outlets like Thorntons are concerned, then this is it. It is heartening that the brand is likely to be retained through strengthening their online offering.”