UPDATE 1-Store closures, frugal consumers hurt Thorntons' sales
* Q3 total sales fall 3 pct to 62.4 million stg
* Q3 like-for-like sales in own stores down 1.6 pct
May 3 (Reuters) - Thorntons Plc said its quarterly sales fell nearly three percent, as the British chocolatier's ongoing store closures and a tough consumer environment bit into sales of the chocolates it sells.
"We saw a good performance at Easter across all our channels," Chief Executive Jonathan Hart said. "However, sales of our all year-round products in the commercial channel were lower as the difficult consumer environment continues."
The company, established by Joseph William Thornton in 1911, has been struggling with lower demand as consumers have been reluctant to loosen their purse strings in the face of rising prices, subdued wage growth and high unemployment.
On Thursday, Thorntons reported that third-quarter total sales fell about three percent to 62.4 million pounds ($101.11 million). Like-for-like sales were down 1.6 percent at stores it owns.
Excluding store closures, total sales were broadly flat, the company said.
Last year, Thorntons said it would shutter a third of its stores over three years, and a tough Christmas in which it had to discount heavily prompted the company to slash its half-yearly dividend.
Shares of Derbyshire-based Thorntons closed at 25.88 pence on Wednesday on the London Stock Exchange. They have shed 32 percent of their value since the company warned on profits late last year.
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