Thorntons’ boss quits after supermarket sales fall
The chief executive of Thorntonshas resigned after a difficult few months in which the chocolate maker issued a pre-Christmas profit warning and suffered a fall in orders from supermarkets.
Jonathan Hart will leave the company at the end of its financial year on 27 June. Barry Bloomer, Thorntons’ chief operating officer, will run the company while it looks for a replacement.
Hart joined Thorntons in January 2011 from Caffe Nero, the coffee chain, where he was managing director. He set about reviving the 104-year-old company by revamping its range, seeking more orders from both the supermarkets and online and by closing about 120 high street stores to cut costs. Hart had the main points of the plan printed on his mouse mat.
There were signs the strategy was working in September when Thorntons announced a 60% rise in annual profit but the improved performance was based on cost cutting while sales barely increased. The day before Christmas Eve, Thorntons warned that annual profit would fallbecause of lower than expected orders from supermarkets and problems at its new warehouse.
In March, the Derbyshire-based company announced full-year profit down almost 10% to £6.5m and revenues down 8%, saying its performance was disappointing. Hart said he did not expect supermarket sales to improve in the following six months though revenues on its website and at its remaining stores were up.
Paul Wilkinson, Thorntons’ chairman, said: “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. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Jonathan for his significant contribution and wish him well for the future.”
On the day of the December profit warning, Thorntons’ shares crashed from 118p to 95p. They slumped to 63p in February but have since staged a partial recovery back to 95p before Hart’s resignation was announced. In early trading on Monday, company shares fell almost 3% to 92.5p.