Thorntons chief executive quits

<p>The announcement comes after poor sales during Christmas and Mothers’ Day.</p>

The chief executive of Thorntons, Jonathan Hart, will step down at the end of June.

Mr Hart has been in charge at the company for four years and is leaving after the company experienced poor performance during key periods like Christmas and Mothers' Day.

In a brief announcement, Thorntons said that a search for a replacement has already started. Until the position is filled, the company's chief operating officer Barry Bloomer will step in as interim chief executive.

A series of poor results

The Telegraph reports that the chocolatier has experienced a "torrid" few months as it struggled to adapt its business model.

A profits warning was issued in December, following poor sales in the run up to Christmas, which led to shares falling by one-fifth. At the time, the company blamed supermarkets for cutting orders. There were also difficulties at the company's centralised warehouse.

In January, a trading update showed that the company's commercial sales had fallen 10.3 per cent during the festive period – and that sales were down by 8.2 per cent during the second half of last year.

The confectioner saw an improvement during Valentine's Day and Easter, but these were not significant enough to offset the weak performance seen over Mothers' Day and the rest of the period.

Finding its place in the market

Thorntons was founded more than 100 years ago in Sheffield, but recently the company has struggled to find a place in the market. Luxury brands like Maison du Chocolat and Godiva have put pressure on the business from the top-end of the market, so the company made the decision to move into supermarkets.

However, the supermarkets have been increasing their own-brand chocolate ranges and the price war between the big grocery chains. According to the Telegraph, this has had an impact on Thorntons' sales.

The chocolate expert is also in the process of selling its portfolio of high street stores.

Chairman Paul Wilkinson said that Mr Hart had worked to turn around the business and faced a number of challenges in the process.

"Over the past four years Jonathan has turned around our retail business, as well as creating and delivering the vision and strategy that will serve as the platform for the continued transformation of Thorntons into an international consumer goods business," he said.

At the opening of the London Stock Exchange, Thorntons share prices were down to 92.53p, following a previous close of 95.00p.​

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