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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 17:13 GMT
Sex and chocolate sales soar
Thorntons chocolates
Sweet temptations were popular in December
Signs of rising unemployment and slower growth may have emerged in the UK, but Britons are still enjoying traditional comforts, reports have suggested.

Chocolate retailer Thorntons saw sales rise 8% in the last seven weeks of 2001.

Ann Summers thong
Jacqueline Gold: "The British just can't get enough sex"

And sex shop chain Ann Summers saw lingerie and sex toy sales soar last month.

Sales in the firm's 55 stores rose by one quarter, with home parties operations reporting a 40% trade boost, and sales at the internet division surging by two thirds.

"It just goes to show that the British just can't get enough sex," chief executive Jacqueline Gold said.

Changing fortunes

Thorntons' sales rise helped distance the firm from a dismal Easter in 2000 when 1.4 million Easter eggs were left unsold.

Since then, the company has been overhauled.

The number of stores has been cut from 412 to 394 while the number of franchises has been increased to 181 from 148.

"I am extremely pleased to be able to report further evidence that progress is being made," said chief executive Peter Burdon.

Thornton is now looking ahead to the next big annual sales bonanza.

Valentine's Day is less than a month away, and sales of love-heart shaped chocolate boxes, teddy bears and champagne bottles are expected, predictably, to be strong in the coming weeks.

Knickerbox

Ann Summers remains privately owned.

Ann Summers nurse
Sales via home parties rose 40%

Since it was set up in 1972, it has entered mainstream retailing.

It owns the underwear shop chain Knickerbox which has franchises in Denmark, Iceland and Ireland.

The privately-owned firm has also expanded abroad, opening shops in Ireland and the Middle East.

Thorntons shares closed 1p higher at 103p in London on Tuesday.

See also:

03 Apr 00 | Business
Ann Summers to buy Knickerbox
08 Mar 00 | Business
Thorntons aims for sweeter future
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