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This article is about the chocolate company. For the book shop, see Thornton's Bookshop.
Thorntons plc
Type Public (LSE: THT)
Founded England Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England (1911)
Founder(s) Joseph William Thornton
Headquarters Alfreton, Derbyshire, England
Number of locations 381 (with 261 additional franchise stores)
Key people John A. Von Spreckelsen (Chairman)
Mike R. Davies (Chief Executive)
Revenue £180 million (2007)
Employees 4000

Thorntons is a British chocolate company established by Joseph William Thornton in 1911. Thorntons today is a £180 million turnover company with nearly 400 shops and cafes and around 200 franchises together with internet, mail order and commercial services. Since the takeover of Cadburys by US company Kraft, Thorntons is now the largest, independent chocolate and confectionary company in the United Kingdom.


Notable products

Continental and Special Toffee account for almost £80 million of Thornton's sales and are often cited as two of the favourites among the Thornton product line.[citation needed]


A Thorntons store located in a former tram shelter in Gunwharf Quays.
A Thorntons store in Banbury

Thorntons was founded in 1911 by Joseph Thornton who set up his own confectionery shop in Sheffield with his teenage son, and has since grown to become the UK’s largest manufacturer and retailer of specialist chocolates. They moved from their old Sheffield factory to a purpose built modern food production facility at Alfreton, Derbyshire in the 1980s. They have established unique selling points in their recognised brand and high street presence and are known for their premium quality chocolates with both quality ingredients and exclusive recipes.

Thorntons has increased its customer base within the UK, but previous attempts to enter the US, Belgian and French markets proved disappointing. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1988. The Thornton family have continued to play an active role in the business, and it was only in 1996 that a non-Thornton CEO (Roger Paffard) was appointed.

The 2003 results show turnover increasing to £167.1 million, but operating profit decreasing to £9.4 million. There is a significant impact of seasonality on the sales demand and a number of strategies have been undertaken to attempt to address this issue – however, 35% of sales are still in the seven-week period before Christmas and a further 10% before Easter. The impact of this on both manufacturing and service are significant, with temporary staff covering positions.


The now former CEO Peter Burdon (who left the company in September 2006), proposed a management buy out in February 2004, though this was not successful. Two months later, John Thornton announced his retirement from chairmanship in April 2004.


Advertising slogans have included:

"Chocolate Heaven Since 1911"

"The Art of The Chocolatier"

On 3 April 2007, Thorntons set up what is thought to be the world's first edible billboard. The 14.5 ft by 9.5 ft (4.4 m by 2.9 m) and 390 kg (860 lb) sign was erected outside their Covent Garden, London store, and was devoured by eager passers-by within 3 hours.[1] The structure included 10 chocolate bunnies, 72 giant chocolate eggs and 128 chocolate panels, each weighing 2 kg. The publicity stunt was decided following poor Christmas 2006 sales.



  • The Strategy Report of Thorntons plc, Birmingham Business School, 2007
  1. ^ Shoppers eat chocolate billboard BBC News, 3 April 2007

External links



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