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Sun shining on Klondyke with surge in garden centre profits

GARDEN centre operator Klondyke Group has reported a 40 per cent surge in operating profits as last year's warm summer helped to push sales up.

The company, which has its head office in Polmont, Stirlingshire and operates from more than 20 locations across the UK, said it is also starting to see early signs of economic recovery.

Accounts recently filed at Companies House show turnover rose almost seven per cent from £44.1 million to £47.04 million in the 12 months to the end of September 2013.

That helped operating profits come in at £4.9 million, ahead of the £3.5m recorded the previous year. On a pre-tax level profits fell from £3.4 million to £3.15m, but the 2012 figures were boosted by a £1.3 million gain from a disposal.

Writing in the accounts the directors said like-for-like sales were up 5.6 per cent in the year although there had been a small erosion in margins.

They said: "The financial year ending September 2013 will be remembered for the extremes of weather, in particular, unusually low temperatures in the early spring and one of the best summers for several years."

The cold weather in March and early April last year was said to have hit sales of all products but particularly outdoor shrubs and bedding plants. However, the onset of summer saw improvements in most areas of the business.

The directors said: "Throughout the summer months consistently dry, warm weather had a positive effect on the sales of garden furniture and barbecues as customers returned to their gardens after recent poor summers.

"Sales of gift-related products also experienced good growth throughout the year and the increasing popularity of garden centre coffee shops [and] restaurants resulted in another year of solid like-for-like sales growth."

The directors signalled they would continue to refurbish existing sites and pointed out investments at High Legh and Asburty Meadow as well as the new build at Wilmslow had seen all three centres outperform sales expectations. The accounts showed capital spending of more than £1 million, compared to £703,566.

The directors added: "Following the success of recent redevelopments the board will continue to plan for the future redevelopment of other centres within the existing portfolio.

"The board will also give consideration to suitable potential acquisition opportunities that meet our financial criteria.

"The current economic climate will continue to be a challenge. However, there are some early, if small, signs of recovery."

Average employee numbers grew from 844 to 860 in the year, which resulted in staff payroll costs increasing from £12.1 million to £12.23 million.

The directors' total remuneration dipped from £787,739 to £721,490, although the highest paid saw theirs increase from £203,415 £219,647.

Net debt was trimmed from £37.3 million to £33.9 million.

Klondkye was formed in Kirkintilloch in the 1980s when Bob and Dorothy Gault bought a small piece of land with a single greenhouse. It had five sites in Scotland by the mid-90s and acquired its first English premises in 1994.

Although Mr Gault died in February 2011 his family still own and work in the business.

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