A man who smuggled more than $100 worth of chocolate out of a store told the court he was on his way to return the stolen goods when caught.

Shannon Kelly was in The Warehouse in Wanganui on September 18 when he swiped 25 king-sized bars of chocolate and hid them down his shirt, police prosecutor Sergeant Stephen Butler said.

A member of the public had alerted staff, and Kelly, 37, was found in a nearby shop, Mr Butler told the Whanganui District Court on Tuesday.

Kelly confessed he was planning on selling the stolen chocolate. He pleaded guilty to shoplifting.

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Defence lawyer Harete Hipango said Kelly told her he realised what he did was wrong and was on his way to return the chocolate but was stopped by security on his way back.

Judge David Cameron pointed out there was "no reference" in the summary of facts to Kelly walking back to the shop.

He said Kelly was a "notorious" shoplifter and sentenced him to 100 hours of community work.

"If you continue to shoplift, inevitably you will be imprisoned," the judge said.