Thorntons showed further signs of recovery yesterday when the chocolatier overcame high street gloom and unveiled the first gain in underlying interim sales at its own stores in three years. Financial Times

Transaction levels remained flat during a “tough” festive trading environment, but their average value increased. Like-for-like sales across its 378 stores rose 1.2% as a result.

Store modernisation and a relaunch of its flagship Continental selection had lured customers into spending more, said Mike Davies, chief executive, who joined from Mars over a year ago after the 97-year-old retailer issued profit warnings.

Ten concept stores with a 'more modern feel' are due to be in place by the end of June and the format will be rolled out if successful.

The retailer plans to raise the number of stores to 400 and the number of franchisees to 300 in the next two to three years. It added nine new stores and 31 franchises in the second quarter.

It said it was on track to meet expectations for the year. Consensus forecasts are for pre-tax profit of £9m on sales of £200m.