UK – British confectionery brand and retailer Thorntons has announced that it is permanently closing its UK stores, after more than 100 years of trading.
Thorntons referred to the changing dynamics of the high street and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 as the main reason for the shutdown that will impact jobs of over 600 people.
The chocolate brand was acquired by Ferrero back in 2015 for £112 million, following several attempts to revive the business.
Despite investing over £45 million in the brand, including the opening of new format stores and cafes, Thorntons says the shifting consumer behaviour to online and Covid-19 restrictions over the last year has meant it has been trading “in the most challenging circumstances”.
“Like many companies, we have been operating for a long time in a tough and challenging retail environment,” said Adam Goddard, retail director at Thorntons.
“Unfortunately like many others, 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 store estate,” added Goddard.
The retail director said that the company will now go into full consultation with affected colleagues across the 61 Thorntons-owned stores adding that the company will actively support its colleagues during this period.
However, the group will retain its UK factories in Alfreton and Greenford, where impacted employees will have the opportunity to apply for vacancies.
Thorntons says its strategy going forward will be to focus on its online channel – where net sales increased 71% over the last year – as well as continue to build its brand in the grocery channels.
Pandemic changes consumers’ confectionery purchasing behavior
Meanwhile, a recently released report by the National Confectioners Association (NCA) showed that during the pandemic, 61% of consumers changed their confectionery purchasing patterns to adjust to the new normal.
Around 41% purchased more value packs and individually wrapped items, while the number of households purchasing sweets online at least twice climbed 76%.
Chocolate sales grew 4.2% while non-chocolate candy sales grew by 2.9% during 2020, according to the 2021 State of Treating report from the National Confectioners Association (NCA).
Total online dollars spent jumped 14.3% per person, reflecting an accelerated shift towards online buying at the detriment of brick-and-mortar stores such as Thorntons.
The primary motivator for online purchases was convenience followed by an inability to find items in-store, free shipping and better deals, according to the report.
Although confectionery sales saw a slight dip in 2020, the chocolate and non-chocolate categories saw a boost.
Chocolate has proven to be a compelling comfort food for many people during the pandemic and has largely been a pandemic-proof category as a result.
The rise in chocolate sales is a silver lining for Thorntons and the company hopes to leverage this to achieve more growth in the near future.
“We remain committed to this iconic British brand and will continue to invest further in the future potential of Thorntons to ensure we evolve with the times,” concluded Goddard.
Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Business Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food and agro industry. SUBSCRIBE HERE