Thorntons

Two Easters and a Christmas. Looks like that’s what did for Thorntons. If you’re running a business that specialises in chocolate and toffee, how do you weather the storm of a pandemic that practically erases the key chocolate-purchasing holidays? The answer is, you don’t. Seasonality of sales was always an issue for this retailer so, without the seasons, you suffer.

Originally a family firm, Thorntons — like TopShop — began in Sheffield but earlier than the clothing company, in 1911. Like so many family firms, it was taken over by a larger one, Ferrero, but kept an emphasis on small shops throughout the UK high streets.

In recent years, however, rival brands such as Hotel Chocolat edged Thorntons out of the perceived “premium” space.

Plus, when it comes to “luxury” chocolate, today’s consumers aren’t just about the taste and the price. They have questions about single-origin ingredients, alternative sugars, ethical production and sustainability.

Those are problems for which squashing your rival’s truffles was never going to be a long-term solution.

Not wholly surprising, then, that in March 2021 the company announced that not one of its 61 stores, closed under coronavirus restrictions, would reopen after the lockdowns are lifted.

The brand itself will not disappear. Like Debenhams and, again, TopShop, it will move online only.

So what we’re losing is not the treacle toffee itself, but the fascination of watching a tray of treacle toffee being broken in front of your eyes by a shop assistant with a small hammer. What we’re losing is the scent of cocoa luring you in off the street only to find yourself purchasing a Continental Collection you never knew you needed. What we’re losing is a tasting tray of orange crisps, salted pistachios and strawberry dreams…

Tasting trays. Be a long time before we see them again, too.

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