Dobbies Garden Centres enjoyed strong Christmas sales and has had a robust start to the year, the chain’s boss has told Retail Week.

The Edinburgh-based garden centre operator, sold by Tesco last year, has bloomed with its 34 garden centres producing its most successful Christmas in the last four years. 

Boss John Cleland said Dobbies’ like-for-likes over Christmas, the five weeks to January 1, rose 4%.  A total sales and profit figure was not disclosed.

In January like-for-like sales rose by 14% on the back of a 5% growth in footfall.

Cleland said sales during the festive period were helped by the extra Saturday being part of the period, but that generally “a refocus on service and better store standards” had also contributed to the result.

Looking ahead, Cleland said: “We’re investing on ranging, restaurants and systems”, adding that there would be a concentration on the existing estate “over the next three years.”

 On Brexit he added: “I don’t think we have an immediate problem. We’re very much a UK-sourced business, but we do buy some stuff from the Far East, which will mean higher prices, but the pressure is not great and we will try not to pass any increases on to our customers.” 

Dobbies changed hands last July, with new owners Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital paying Tesco £217m in cash.

Midlothian’s Andrew Bracey, who helped steer the deal, later replaced John Allan as chairman.