Chairman bullish over long term
Dobbies Garden Centres has announced solid half-year trading figures, underlining the sector's apparent immunity to the general consumer malaise.

The results for the six months to April 30 come after rival Blooms of Bressingham's announcement yesterday that it is readying itself for expansion with a share placing.

Dobbies' total sales increased to£27.3 million, a rise of 16 per cent compared with the year before. Like-for-like sales were up by 1.5 per cent. However, profit before tax for the period was down 8.8 per cent to£1.7 million, because of a rise in upfront costs of 25.7 per cent to£11.4 million, spent mostly on boosting staff numbers in preparation for expansion.

Like-for-like sales for the 34 weeks to June 26 were up 0.8 per cent. During the period, the retailer acquired four sites in Sheffield, Cirencester, Belfast and Milton Keynes, which will be developed over the next two years.

Dobbies chairman Alex Hammond-Chambers said the sites will form the main part of the retailer's future growth, with higher sales at its existing 17 stores supplementing the expansion in the long term. 'We are bullish about our longer-term prospects,' he said. The retailer also hopes to acquire more sites next year.

Hammond-Chambers said: 'The first half of this current year has not been easy. The weather has been unseasonably cold - particularly in Scotland, where two thirds of our sales are generated - and there has been an underlying weakness in consumer spending.

'Although it is difficult to see growth in consumer spending in the next few years, we remain optimistic about the prospects for spending in our own garden-related sector.'