Chocolate retailer Thorntons is to close all its 61 stores with 603 jobs hit in latest blow to the High Street

  • Thorntons has been hit hard by pandemic, which kept many of its stores shut 
  • Retail director Adam Goddard said changing high street ‘dynamics’ also to blame
  • Thorntons gas seen online sales surge and will invest in grocery supply business

Chocolate retailer Thorntons has announced plans to permanently shut all its 61 stores with 603 jobs impacted in the latest blow to Britain’s hard-hit high streets.

The retailer has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has kept many of its stores shut for ‘key trading periods’ around Christmas and Easter.  

Thorntons’ retail director Adam Goddard said the impact of Covid-19 was to blame, along with ‘changing dynamics of the high street’. 

But Thorntons, which was founded in Sheffield in 1911, said it has seen sales surge online and will invest in its grocery supply business as part of the shake-up of its operations.  

Thorntons is the latest chain facing closures due to Covid after Britain’s high streets suffered immeasurable losses during lockdown.  

Chocolate retailer Thorntons has announced plans to permanently shut all its 61 stores with 603 jobs impacte

Mr Goddard said: ‘Changing dynamics of the high street, shifting customer behaviour to online, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the numerous lockdown restrictions over the last year – especially during our key trading periods at Easter and Christmas – has meant we have been trading in the most challenging circumstances.

‘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.

‘We will now go into full consultation with our colleagues.’  

The company was bought by Italian food giant Ferrero in 2015 for £112 million.

The retailer (file image) said it has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has kept many of its stores shut for key periods around Christmas and Easter

Thorntons – which was founded by Joseph William Thornton and his father in 1911 – expanded rapidly in the 2000s and, in 2009, it reported a £214.8million turnover.

But due to the seasonal nature of chocolate buying, 35 per cent of purchases were made in the seven weeks up to Christmas – and ten per cent before Easter Sunday.

In 2011, Thorntons announced that it close between 120 and 180 of its shops.

The demise of the much-loved chocolate retailer follows 12-months of devastating high street closures. 

The casual dining sector and retail appear to have been the two hardest hit since lockdown kicked in in March 2020.

In September, Pizza Hut revealed plans to shut 29 of its 244 UK restaurants, in a restructuring move that would put about 450 jobs at risk.

The highly-popular restaurant chain said it faced ‘significant disruption’ from the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, Pizza Hut revealed plans to shut 29 of its 244 UK restaurants, in a restructuring move that would put about 450 jobs at risk (file image)

And in September, Pizza Express confirmed it plans to permanently shut 73 of its restaurants, putting 1,100 jobs at risk (file image) 

It said the affect of lockdown was so detrimental that ‘sales are not expected to fully bounce back until well into 2021’ despite a quick and safe reopening of sites. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme gave the hospitality sector a boost in August, but many casual dining chains were unable to make up losses. 

Meanwhile, he owner of Ask Italian and Zizzi restaurants said it planned to close 75 of its restaurants, putting 1,200 jobs at risk. 

And Casual Dining Group – the owner of Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas – closed 91 restaurants when it collapsed into the hands of administrators in July.

In June, The Restaurant Group, which owns Frankie & Benny’s and Garfunkel’s, said it would close up to 120 restaurants, with nearly 3,000 jobs lost. 

And in September, Pizza Express confirmed it plans to permanently shut 73 of its restaurants, putting 1,100 jobs at risk.

The closures span Aberdeen to Torquay, including its original site in Wardour Street in Soho, London, which opened in 1965.

Other sites across major cities including Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh are also set to stay closed for good.

The closures affected one in six – or around 16 per cent – of its UK sites.  

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