Chocolate retailer Thorntons boosted hopes for a trading turnaround after reporting an improvement in the rate of its sales decline.
The firm said total sales fell to £176.6 million for the year to June 24, compared with £187 million in the previous 12 months.
However, in a trading statement, it also pointed to a revival in like-for-like sales which were down 1.8 per cent in the past six months compared with 4.8 per cent in the first half of the year, helped by a strong Easter season.
There was also good news at the company's online Thorntons Direct arm, where sales were up by 6.4 per cent to £5.5 million.
Thorntons said retail sales at its 367 shops were down five per cent to £127 million from £134.1 million last year, following the net closure of two shops.
There was a four per cent fall in sales at its franchised stores to £12.9 million, while commercial sales also took a hit - decreasing by 10.7 per cent on last year to £31.2 million.
Last month former Budgens chief executive John von Spreckelsen was taken on as chairman at the confectioner in a bid to revive its fortunes.
Mr von Spreckelsen said: "Thorntons sells excellent chocolates and ice cream. We need to focus on convincing more customers to buy these quality products."
The drop in commercial sales, such as to other high street retailers, was blamed on the restructuring of its range at Marks and Spencer and the withdrawal from Woolworths.
The relaunch of the customer offer, a new website and increased awareness building advertising is expected to further increase the sales growth rate in the coming year, Thorntons said.
Thorntons also announced the appointment of Barry Bloomer, operations director, to the board.
Mr Bloomer joined last year from Black & Decker where he was European operations director.