Thorntons shops are set to close

Mutiny Festival brought over �2m to the local economy Picture: Paul Windsor

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THORNTONS is the latest high street retailer to announce closures of its outlets, with up to 180 set to go.

The group said today it will exit at least 120 outlets over the next three years as their leases expire, and it will also consider the future of an additional 60 shops over the same period.

It has two dedicated stores in Portsmouth, in Commercial Road and Gunwharf Quays, and an outlet at Clinton Cards in Southsea.

It also has a shop in Fareham and one in Chichester.

The plan will leave Thorntons with around 180 to 200 company-owned stores, although in the majority of locations it hopes franchisees will open outlets.

It is the latest blow to the high street after the failure of chains such as Jane Norman, and Habitat in recent weeks.

Discount department store TJ Hughes is set to join the list of failed retailers today after it reportedly filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator.

Chains such as HMV, Game and JJB Sports are also slimming down their store estates. And Mothercare said recently that it would axe 110 shops in order to focus its trading on out-of-town locations.

The Thorntons strategy review, led by new chief executive Jonathan Hart, will see the company increasingly focus on its commercial division, which sells Thorntons-branded chocolate through other retailers, and grow online sales.

The review also aims to make the business less dependent on seasonal events such as Christmas and Easter by increasing the number of gifts it sells.

The closure of the stores could put between 750 and 1,125 jobs at risk, but Mr Hart said the company would try to find staff alternative roles wherever possible.

The chain will revamp its products with gifts for under £5 for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries to help broaden its appeal throughout the year and will develop a new flagship boxed chocolate brand next year. It will start offering free tastings in-stores in the next couple of months.

The group also aims to make efficiency savings at its factories and supply chain in a bid to save £2 million a year. However, closing the company-owned stores will cost it between £4.2 million and £4.8 million.