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Thorntons Ltd
TypeLimited company
FoundedSheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England (1911; 110 years ago (1911))
FounderJoseph William Thornton
HeadquartersAlfreton, Derbyshire, England
Number of locations
Decrease 87 (plus franchise shops (109), and six cafes) (all physical locations to close 2021) [1]
RevenueDecrease £135 million (2018)
Decrease£38.3 million (2018)
Decrease£22.9 million (2018)
OwnerFerrero [2]
Number of employees
Decrease 2,634 [3]

Thorntons is a British chocolate brand, which was established by Joseph William Thornton and his father, in 1911. The company was bought by the Italian firm Ferrero in June 2015 for £112m.[4]

Since Cadbury became part of the Mondelez International, Thorntons is the largest confectionery only parent company in Britain. It has established toffee and fudge lines, but after post war rationing ended, the group shifted its specialism into chocolate, especially its Continental, Swiss and Belgian chocolate sets, which form the bulk of sales.[3][5]


The Thornton family[edit]

This outlet plays on the brand's long history, being in a small, decorative tram shelter, in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire. (2008)

Thorntons began in Sheffield in 1911, the business being started by Joseph William Thornton (1870–1919), who co opened the company's first shop, at 159 Norfolk Street. Norman, his son, became the manager, at the age of just 15. Later in the companies history, Peter Thornton (grandson of the founder) served as chairman, but was dismissed from the role in June 1987.[6]

2009–present – trading difficulties[edit]

A Thorntons shop in London in 2015

After rapid expansion, the results of 2009 showed turnover increasing to £214.8 million, but operating profit decreasing to £7.94 million. A perennial seasonality in sales disappointed strategists and employees. 35% of the sales were in the seven week period before Christmas, and 10%, shortly before Easter Sunday.

The scale of impact of this, on manufacturing and service, are more pronounced than the average in the food sector, necessitating temporary staffing. Jonathon Hart joined the business, as chief executive officer, in January 2011. Following another resultant strategic review, in June 2011, Thorntons announced it would close between 120 and 180, of its shops.[7][8]

It was announced in June 2015, that chocolate producer Ferrero would buy Thorntons, for £112 million.[9] Thorntons Ltd are 75% owned by Ferholding UK Ltd, which, in turn, is controlled by Giovanni Ferrero (who holds over 50% of voting rights).[citation needed]

With Ferrero investment into the business to try to increase revenue, through the financial year of 2017 to 2018 sales and production increased. Fewer new shops were opened with some existing locations diversified into cafés, selling a range of both eat-in and take-away food and drinks alongside the traditional confectionary lines.[3] In 2020, Thorntons won the Lausanne Index Prize - Bronze Award.[10]

On 15 March 2021, it was announced that all 61 remaining Thorntons retail stores were to close after UK government COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lifted.[11] The pandemic restrictions had meant that all Thorntons retail stores had closed for much of 2020, and the business was now going to restructure in order to move sales both online and to focus retailing on supermarket distribution channels. While announcing that the physical Thorntons stores would close, the company stated that it had seen a 70% increase in sales though the business website compared to the previous year.[12]


Hollow and solid cats, rabbits and seasonal shapes by the company, often have fine white, or dark chocolate details. (2008)

The current, main advertising slogans are:

  • Chocolate Heaven Since 1911 [13]
  • It's The Thorntons That Counts [14]

Thorntons set up a very rare edible billboard, on 3 April 2007, which exceeded four metres length; 14.5 by 9.5 ft (4.4 by 2.9 m) and 390 kg (860 lb) – it was framed outside their shop in Covent Garden, London, and was eaten, within the space of just three hours.[15] The structure included ten chocolate bunnies, seventy two giant chocolate eggs, and 128 chocolate panels, each weighing 2 kg (4.4 lb).

The promotion sought to regain lost custom to competition, and a move away from deluxe chocolate gifts, in recent festive sales, as well as poor sales over the summer of 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official Store Locator Thorntons plc. Retrieved 16 May 2020
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c A minority of sales is in novelties, decoration and café outlet remittances.Full accounts made up to the 31st August 2018 Thorntons Ltd Annual Report 2018|Companies House. Retrieved 16 May 2020
  4. ^ Sarah Butler. "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Clark, Andrew (7 May 2011). "Thorntons: why the chocolate-maker has gone into meltdown". The Observer. The Guardian ( Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Thorntons – My Life in the Family Business". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  7. ^ Danaher, Tim (28 June 2011). "Thorntons to slash number of company-owned stores". Retail Week (
  8. ^ "Thorntons PLC" (Strategy Review). 28 June 2011. FE Investegate ( "for Private Investors only".
  9. ^ Farrell, Sean (22 June 2015). "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  10. ^ "2020 L.I.P. Bronze Award - Thorntons".
  11. ^ Wilson, Charlie (15 March 2021). "Live as historic Thorntons is set to close all UK stores". YorkshireLive. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Thorntons: Chocolate maker to close all shops putting 600 jobs at risk". BBC News. 15 March 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Chocolate Heaven Since 1911". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Bringing sweet news to Thorntons". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Shoppers eat chocolate billboard". BBC News. 3 April 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • The Strategy Report of Thorntons plc, Birmingham Business School, 2007[full citation needed]
  • Thorntons, My Life in the Family Business by Peter Thornton, Published by Tomahawk Press, October 2009 ISBN 978-0-9557670-3-6

External links[edit]