Chocolate retailer Thorntons is the latest well-known high street brand to fall victim to the Covid crisis, announcing the closure of all its 61 stores, with the likely loss of 600 jobs.
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 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.
Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns have hit Thorntons particularly hard because they have occurred during its peak times, including Christmas and two consecutive Easters.
The closures will represent the latest departure of a longstanding high-street name. Thorntons blamed the changing dynamics of the high street and the shift to online retail, as well as the pandemic, for its decision.
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.
The company has abandoned an earlier strategy of investing in new store formats and cafes in an attempt to stave off the structural forces hitting bricks-and-mortar retail.
Online sales have continued to perform well, Thorntons said, with sales over the last year up by 71% compared to the year before.
“Unfortunately like many other retailers, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe,” said Adam Goddard, Thorntons’ retail director. “Despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to go into full consultation to start the permanent closure of our retail store estate.
“As customers continue to change the way they shop, we must change with them.”