British chocolate group Thorntons, which has been struggling with lower demand, reported a 71% rise in pretax profit for the first half on higher commercial sales.

Consumers have been reluctant to loosen their purse strings in the face of rising prices, subdued wage growth and high unemployment.

This prompted Thorntons to close its high street stores and focus on its online business.

The company said that its sales rose 3% to £133.7m sterling in the 28 weeks ended January 12.

Sales in the commercial UK channel rose 16% to £51.8m.

Pre-tax profit before exceptional items rose to £5.3m from £3.1m a year earlier. Thorntons, which had cancelled dividend last year, said there will be no interim dividend.

Thorntons, founded by Joseph William Thornton in 1911, closed 13 stores in the first half of the year.