DOBBIES Garden Centres has said it has enjoyed strong growth in sales in recent months following a shake up at the firm, which suffered a fall in profits in the year after it was sold by Tesco.

The latest accounts for Midlothian-based Dobbies show the company made £5.1 million profit before tax in the 52 weeks to February 25, compared with £8.4m in the preceding 52 weeks.

Total sales fell to £148.3m from £150.5m.

The accounts cover the first full year of trading after the Midlothian Capital Partners private equity firm acquired Dobbies Garden Centres from Tesco, with Hattington Capital, for £217m in June 2016.

In the accounts directors of Dobbies Garden Centres noted that footfall fell 3.6 per cent annually in the latest financial year.

The accounts cover a period during which consumer spending came under pressure amid the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote. Store operators have faced competition from online players.

In a statement issued yesterday, the company said: “Range changes implemented during the second half of the year led to lower footfall and conversion particularly during the Christmas trading period.”

Dobbies said a new leadership team appointed in January had completed a strategic review of the business, which has delivered benefits in the current financial year. The company recorded six consecutive months of year on year sales growth of over 11 per cent.

In October Dobbies signalled confidence in the prospects for the sector by acquiring five big outlets in England from sector stablemate Wyevale Garden Centres. These have performed in line with expectations.

It has 39 garden centres across the UK, including 15 in Scotland.

New chief executive Graeme Jenkins noted yesterday: “Dobbies has delivered a strong trading performance so far this year. This gives us a solid foundation for growing the business organically and through further acquisitions.”

In July Dobbies parted company with garden centre industry veteran Nicolas Marshall, who was appointed chief executive in March last year.

Wyevale has sold 37 non-core centres since May, when it was put up for sale by the Terra Firma private equity operation. Announcing the sale of two centres yesterday, Wyevale said it is evaluating offers from group buyers, regional operators and local entrepreneurs.