More than 600 jobs at Thorntons have been put at risk after the chocolatier said it would not reopen its stores when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
The company, which is owned by Italian food giant Ferrero, had spent £45m on transforming its business, but said the damage caused by the pandemic had been too great to continue operating on the high street. It will continue to sell its products online and in other stores.
Redundancy in a pandemic
Over the past five years it has seen its retail estate fall from 252 stores to 61.
“The obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe,” said Thorntons retail director Adam Goddard. “Despite our best efforts we have taken the difficult decision to permanently close our retail store estate.”
The decision does not affect Thorntons’ high street franchisees, of which there are more than 100 stores.
Elsewhere, bakery chain Greggs has announced plans to open 100 shops in 2021, despite reporting its first loss for 36 years.
Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Greggs has made a better than expected start to 2021 given the extent of lockdown conditions and is well placed to participate in the recovery from the pandemic. It has a clear strategy to extend its digital capabilities and to grow further in new locations, channels and dayparts.
“In a year like no other I believe that the Covid crisis has in many ways demonstrated the strength of Greggs. It has shown the resilience of our business model, but most of all the strength of our people who have worked hard throughout to maintain an essential service providing takeaway food to customers unable to work from home, many of whom were themselves key workers.”
In its preliminary results report issued today, Greggs said the rise of home working would see it move away from “office-dependent” areas and “weak” shopping locations. Shops that can be accessed by car had performed the strongest, and plans for new locations would take this into account.
“With a strong pipeline and support from multi-channel development we have raised our target for the UK estate to 3,000 shops,” the report says.
In 2020 it opened 84 new shops, including 35 franchised units, and closed 56. In January 2021 it had 2,078 shops, 328 of which are franchises.
The high street has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with job losses at companies including the Arcadia Group, Debenhams and Evans Cycles announced over recent months.