Dobbies Garden Centres - owner of the UK's largest garden centre in Atherstone - yesterday said pre-tax profit fell 8.8 per cent in the first half to end-April to £1.7 million.
Chairman Alex Hammond-Chambers said trading had been difficult, affected by cold weather - particularly in Scotland where two thirds of sales are generated. There has been an underlying weakness in consumer spending, he said.
The group had previously warned that profits in the first half - seasonally the less profitable of the two - were unlikely to increase.
This was partly because of the upfront costs of opening the new centres and partly because the group continues to build the people infrastructure of the business to accommodate anticipated long-term growth.
Costs rose by 25.7 per cent to £11.4 million and this, alongside higher interest charges, led to the fall in pretax profit, the company said.
However total sales up 16.7 per cent to £27.3 million and like-for-like sales in the first half up 1.5 per cent.
Going into the second half, the group said that in the 34 weeks to June 26, like-for-like sales were up 0.8 per cent.
The company attributed the increase in sales to the inclusion of the new centre at Ayr and two new visitor attractions at Dundee and Atherstone.
The new garden centre at Stirling and the redeveloped one at Ponteland, both opened in March, also made contributions to growth.
The board said it expected sales of existing centres to continue to grow over the longer term, although the greater part of growth will come from opening new centres.
In that respect the group has recently signed agreements in respect of four new sites in - near Sheffield, Cirencester, Belfast and Milton Keynes - for development in the next two years.
"We are bullish about our longer term prospects," Mr Hammond-Chambers said.
The board declared an interim dividend of 3.2 pence, up ten per cent.