Thorntons, a major European chocolate maker, is set to close as many as 180 shops over the next three years.

BBC News reports that a minimum of 120 stores will shut down, and an additional 60 also could be closed.

The company told BBC News that the outlets that will be closed are among the 364 directly owned and run by the company, and that it hopes to replace them with franchised stores in a majority of locations.

Thortons currently has 227 shops run by franchisees.

Reuters reports that between 500 and 700 jobs could be affected.

For more information, visit http://www.thorntons.co.uk/