Chocolate maker Thorntons to close all shops, 600 jobs at risk

High street Chocolate retailer Thorntons has announced that it will be closing all its 61 stores, putting 600 jobs at risk.

The Thorntons brand will remain on offer in supermarkets and other retailers, while its factory in Alfreton, Derbyshire, will make more chocolate for international markets.

The company said it had been badly hit by the pandemic, which forced its stores to shut their doors during the crucial Christmas and Easter holidays.

Adam Goddard, Thorntons retail director, said: "The obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the High Street are too severe," said .

"Despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to permanently close our retail store estate."

The 600 staff whose jobs are at risk will receive relocation support if they apply successfully for vacancies at Thorntons’ sites in Alfreton or Greenford in west London, the company said.

The closures will represent the latest departure of a longstanding high-street name.

Thorntons was already struggling before the pandemic. In the year to the end of August 2019 it reported a loss of £36m, only a slight improvement from the £38m loss the year before.

Joseph Thornton founded the company in Sheffield, using the slogan “Chocolate heaven since 1911”. It floated on the stock market in 1987, but has since struggled with competition from international rivals.

Thorntons was bought in 2015 by Ferrero, the Italian chocolate manufacturer, in a £112m deal. At the time of the buyout Thorntons ran 242 stores in Britain and Ireland.

Thorntons said it had spent £45m transforming the business with changes to the way stores operate and the introduction of new cafes but its plans had been thrown off course by the pandemic.

More than 17,500 chain stores and other venues closed in Great Britain last year, according to figures from the Local Data Company. That is an average rate of 48 closures a day.