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UK-based chocolate retailer Thorntons has announced plans to permanently close all its retail stores, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

The company blamed a shift in the dynamics of the high street, growing consumer preference for online retail and multiple lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic for its decision to close the stores.

Headquartered in Greenford, London, Thorntons operates 61 stores and employs around 600 people.

The retailer will continue to offer its chocolate products in supermarkets and other retailers, while its factory in Alfreton, Derbyshire, will continue to manufacture chocolates for international markets.

Relocation support will be provided for employees who are successful in applying for vacancies at the company’s Alfreton or Greenford facilities.

Thorntons retail director Adam Goddard said: “Unfortunately, like many other retailers, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe.

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By GlobalData

“Despite our best efforts, we have taken the difficult decision to go into full consultation to start the permanent closure of our retail store estate.”

Thorntons is the latest high street retailer to fall victim to the Covid-19 crisis. The company has been severely impacted by the pandemic as lockdowns occurred during its peak seasons, including Christmas.

The company had been struggling before the pandemic, with the company reporting a loss of £36m ($49m) in the year ending August 2019, as against a loss of £38m ($52.7m) in 2018.

Italian chocolate maker Ferrero acquired Thorntons in 2015.

Last week, department store chain John Lewis also warned of more permanent store closures due to the impact of the pandemic on its operations.