British chocolatier and retailer Thorntons announced it will close 61 retail stores as a result of continued pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thorntons, owned by Ferrero Group, had invested £45 million ($62.5 million) into its brand, including opening new format stores and cafes and ensuring stores were in the “right locations for customers,” said Adam Goddard, retail director.

“However, changing dynamics of the high street, shifting customer behavior 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 trading in the most challenging circumstances,” Goddard said in a statement.

Goddard noted Thorntons has seen strong growth in its online presence, with a 71 percent increase in net sales over the last year. In addition, Thorntons will continue to build its brand in the grocery channel.

More than 600 positions will be affected by the closures. Goddard said employees will have the opportunity to apply for vacancies at Thorntons’ Greenford and Alfreton sites, as well as receive career coaching and outplacement support.

“Our colleagues have been fantastic during this challenging time, and we would like to thank them for their continued support,” Goddard said. “We understand that this will be an uncertain and concerning time for our colleagues and we will actively support them during this period of consultation.”

Ferrero acquired Thorntons for $177 million in 2015 with the goal of expanding its business in the UK. Thorntons was reportedly struggling at that time, experiencing a 40 percent drop in shares between March 2014 and June 2015, despite efforts such as opening its own stores, moving into new product types and growing grocery sales.

“We remain committed to this iconic British brand and will continue to invest further in the future potential of Thorntons to ensure we evolve with the times,” Goddard said.

These closures follow GODIVA’s January announcement that it would close 128 North American retail stores by the end of the month to focus on online sales and food, drug, and mass retail. Swiss brand Läderach says it will take over 34 of those stores, while St. Louis-based Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company will take over a former GODIVA location locally.