Green-fingered customers are keen to make the most of summer after lockdown helped Dobbies Garden Centre to outperform expectations.
Chairman Andrew Bracey said the company had shown “resilience” in navigating the challenges of Covid-19.
The UK’s largest garden centre chain counts outlets in Monifieth, Perth and Dunfermline among its 69 branches.
It closed its Dalgety Bay store in February last year, after 25 years, citing the close proximity to its premises in Dunfermline.
Newly filed company accounts show the company’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant garden centres closed from March 24 until the end of May.
Steps to protect business as Covid hit
The director’s report with the accounts said it had caused a “temporary but significant impact” on the operations and financial performance of the company.
During this period, Dobbies took several actions to ensure its financial stability.
Capital projects were temporary suspended, negotiation of rent deferrals with landlords took place as well as a review of operating costs.
Dobbies utilised the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme and deferred tax payments.
Sales recovered after lockdown
But trading came back strongly when its branches reopened.
“Since reopening, trade of the company’s garden centres has exceeded initial expectations as the company benefited from consumers who were keen to enjoy the remainder of the gardening season,” the director’s report said.
“The company has been designated an essential retailer in both English and Scottish legislation, providing assurance of continuity of trade during periods of restriction and/or lockdown.
“The directors are therefore confident in being able to operate the majority of the business through a period of wider restrictions.”
The firm said it would be able to survive the most severe downside case in its internal modelling.
“In all instances, the company has demonstrated its ability to meet its liabilities as they fall through,” the report added.
Jump in revenues before pandemic
Dobbies Garden Centre Limited accounts for the year ending March 1, 2020 show the impact of Dobbies’ acquisition of 37 stores from Wyevale Garden Centres in May 2019.
The move made it the UK’s largest garden centre chain.
It resulted in a 45.5% increase in revenue to £235 million and like-for-like sales rose by 6%.
However, one-off costs of £6.9m associated with the acquisition and integration of the enlarged business saw the firm register a pre-tax loss of £22.9m compared to a £93,000 profit in 2019.
Mr Bracey said: “We have a clear strategy for growth at Dobbies and we are encouraged by the progress made during FY19/20.
“The business has continued to demonstrate its resilience as we navigate the challenges of Covid-19.”
Chief executive officer Graeme Jenkins said: “During FY19/20, Dobbies delivered a robust performance through a period of significant change.
“I would like to thank all of our team members for their support and commitment.
“In line with our strategy, we are continuing to grow and invest in Dobbies.
“This includes in our garden centre network, our customer offer and our team.”
History can be traced to 1865
Dobbies has also entered into a partnership with Sainsbury’s which has led to the creation of food halls in its stores.
The roots of Dobbies can be traced back more than 150 years. It started in 1865 with James Dobbie who created a business selling seeds in Renfrew.
Then named Dobbie & Co, the company went on to build up a customer base with a seed catalogue business and then started opening garden centres.
Tesco acquired Dobbies in 2007 before selling to a group of private investors in 2016 for £217m.