HIGH street chocolatier Thorntons says advent calendar sales and new chocolates allowed it to enjoy a strong festive period.

The store, whose outlets include branches in Darlington, Stockton and Durham City, revealed ranges based on Raymond Briggs' The Snowman film had helped boost Christmas sales by 6.3 per cent rise.

It said supermarket sales saw strong performances, with high street stores also returning to like-for-like growth, with sales up 3.5 per cent after slipping back by 0.4 per cent in the previous three months.

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Bosses said total sales across the 281-strong estate fell 2.9 per cent to £46.1m, although this came after it shut seven outlets.

Jonathan Hart, Thorntons' chief executive, said: “These results are further positive evidence of the actions we have taken over the past two-and-a half-years to rebalance our business and revitalise our great brand.”