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Thorntons Ltd
Limited company
Industryfood industry Edit this on Wikidata
FoundedSheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England (1911)
FounderJoseph William Thornton
HeadquartersAlfreton, England
Number of locations
Decrease 228 (plus 186 franchise shops)[1]
RevenueDecrease £191 million (2016)
Decrease - £16.8 million (2016)
Decrease - £30.8 million (2016)
Number of employees
Decrease 3,130[2]

Thorntons is a British chocolate brand established by Joseph William Thornton in 1911. Thorntons Limited has been owned by Italian company Ferrero since 2015.[3] Net income in its annual report of 2016 was reported at a loss of - £30.8 million with a drop in staff and number of shops across the UK. When Cadburys became part of a non-specific confectionery group, Thorntons became the largest confectionery-only parent corporation in the United Kingdom; while it retains a minority of sales of its established toffee and fudge, the group shifted its specialism, after post-war rationing ended, into chocolate and developed wide Continental, Swiss and Belgian chocolate ranges which (alongside novelties and decoration) form the bulk its sales.[1][4] It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE Fledgling Index. While cutting back on its high street presence, sales and production have increased and a small minority of its shops have started afresh or diversified to become cafés.[1] In June 2015 Thorntons was bought by Ferrero for £112m.[3] Thorntons changed their trading name from Thorntons PLC to Thorntons Ltd in Nov 2016 and now their registered office is Ferrero UK Ltd in Greenford, UK.


The Thornton family[edit]

This outlet plays on the brand's long history by being unusually housed in a former tram shelter in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Thorntons began in Sheffield in 1911; a business started by Joseph William Thornton who opened the company’s first shop at 159 Norfolk St in Sheffield with Peter’s father Norman Thornton as the manager at the age of 15.[5]

2000s – trading difficulties[edit]

Following a period of rapid expansion the 2009 results showed turnover increasing to £214.8 million, but operating profit decreasing to £7.94 million. There is still 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.[6]

In January 2011, Jonathon Hart joined the business as CEO.[7] Following a resultant strategic review in June 2011, Thorntons announced it would close between 120 and 180 of its shops.[8][9]

In June 2015 it was announced that Italian chocolate maker Ferrero would buy Thorntons for £112 million.[10] Thorntons Ltd are 75% owned by Ferholding Uk Ltd. Ferholding Uk Ltd is controlled by Giovanni Ferrero who holds over 50% voting rights.

On 17 February 2018, days after one of the biggest trading days of the year, Valentine's Day, Thornton's Cambridge shop closed down after over 25 years of operations.[11]


Some advertising slogans:

  • "Chocolate Heaven Since 1911"[12]
  • "It's the Thorntons that counts"[13]

On 3 April 2007, Thorntons set up what is thought to be the world's first edible billboard. The 14.5 by 9.5 ft (4.4 by 2.9 m) and 390 kg (860 lb) sign was erected outside their Covent Garden, London shop, and was eaten within three hours.[14] The structure included 10 chocolate bunnies, 72 giant chocolate eggs and 128 chocolate panels, each weighing 2 kg (4.4 lb). The publicity stunt was planned following poor Christmas 2006 sales.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Official Filed Annual Report for the 52 weeks to 29 June Thorntons plc[full citation needed]
  2. ^ Official Filed Annual Report for the 53 weeks to 27 Aug 2016 Thorntons Ltd
  3. ^ a b Sarah Butler. "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". the Guardian.
  4. ^ Clark, Andrew (7 May 2011). "Thorntons: why the chocolate-maker has gone into meltdown". The Observer. The Guardian ( Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Thorntons – My Life in the Family Business | Tomahawk Press". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Thorntons Annual Return 2009". Retrieved 17 August 2017.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Appointment of Director, Jonathan Duncan Hart". Retrieved 17 August 2017.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Danaher, Tim (28 June 2011). "Thorntons to slash number of company-owned stores". Retail Week (
  9. ^ "Thorntons PLC" (Strategy Review). 28 June 2011. FE Investegate ( "for Private Investors only".
  10. ^ Farrell, Sean (22 June 2015). "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  11. ^ Rabbett, Abigail (22 January 2018). "This Cambridge chocolate shop is closing down". cambridgenews. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Chocolate Heaven Since 1911". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Bringing sweet news to Thorntons". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  14. ^ "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]