Hundreds of people are set to lose their jobs as chocolate retailer Thorntons announces its plans to permanently close all its stores.
The iconic chocolatier has said that changes in the retail market and the impact of Covid have forced them to close down their brick-and-mortar stores, though their online business will "remain a key focus".
Thorntons bosses have said that all 61 of their stores will close, meaning more than 600 staff will be at risk of redundancy.
Originally a British company, founded in Sheffield in 1911, Thorntons was bought out by Italian firm Ferrero in 2015, for £112m.
In a statement released by the company, a spokesperson said: "Like many companies, we have been operating for a long time in a tough and challenging retail environment.
"We have been committed to transforming and growing a successful Thorntons retail estate; this has included significant investments to open new format stores and cafes and ensuring we had stores in the right locations.
"However, changing dynamics of the high street, shifting customer behaviour to online, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the numerous lockdown restrictions over the last year - especially during our key trading periods at Easter and Christmas - has meant we have been operating in the most challenging circumstances.
"Unfortunately like many other retailers, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe.
"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. We understand that this will be an uncertain and concerning time for our colleagues and we will actively support them during this period.
"As customers continue to change the way they shop, we must change with them. We have seen a strong growth in Thorntons.co.uk and this will remain a key focus for us in continuing to provide you with your favourite Thorntons ranges, including our unique personalisation offering. In addition, we continue to invest in building our brand in grocery channels with our partners in order to meet the demand from you, our loyal customers.
"We remain committed to our iconic Thorntons brand and will continue to invest further in the future potential to ensure we evolve with the times."
Retail director at Thorntons, Adam Goddard, said the firm will go into a "full consultation" with employees.