Chocolatier Thorntons said an encouraging performance during its key Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter period makes it confident that full year pre-exceptional profit before tax will be substantially ahead of the current market expectation with the potential for further improvement in the final quarter.
Total sales for the 14 weeks up to and including April 20th 2013 increased by 4.0% to £60.6m compared to the same period last year.
Thorntons branded UK Commercial sales grew by 10.0% to £27.4m with good growth across all three seasons.
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Thorntons' share of the Total Boxed Chocolate market increased from 11.7% to 12.2% in the last 52 weeks and its share of the Inlaid Boxed Chocolate market increased from 32.9% to 35.6%.
Sales of Easter specialities grew by 23.5% and its Easter market share grew to 4.7% from 4.0% last year.
Own Stores like-for-like (LFL) sales grew by 0.2%. Total sales were down 4.1% to £26.0m after the closure of a further 9 stores in the quarter, in line with the strategy. Thorntons now has 24 fewer stores than a year ago.
Franchise sales declined by £0.6m to £2.2m as expected, after its main franchisee was placed into administration in May 2012.
Thorntons Direct sales fell 4.6% to £2.2m. Its Consumer Direct business delivered growth at Easter as improvements from the new website began to feed through, it said.
Private label sales increased to £1.7m while International sales grew by 30.8% to £1.1m.
Chief Executive Jonathan Hart commented: "This period includes the important trading seasons of Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter where we saw an encouraging sales performance in our main channels."
"Although we continue to be cautious about the impact of current economic conditions, the Board is now confident that pre-exceptional profit before tax for the full year to June 29 2013 will be substantially ahead of the current market expectation with the potential for further improvement in the final quarter."
Thorntons said as a result of actions taken over the past two years, gross margins were slightly ahead of company expectations.
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