The battle for control of garden centre chain Wyevale was "a costly distraction" its boss said as the firm unveiled increases in first-half sales and profits.

But despite the stronger performance, chairman David Williams said there was still much to do.

Last week he narrowly survived a bid by rebel shareholder Laxey Partners, which holds 29 per cent of Wyevale, to oust him.

Laxey is also thought to be considering its options, after raising concern about the profit generation at the firm which runs 114 centres.

Mr Williams said the board had been given a mandate by the shareholders to drive it forward after it was supported by 95 per cent of the non-Laxey votes at an EGM.

He said: "This has been a costly and significant distraction at a most difficult time for UK retail generally.

"Despite this we have made progress with our strategy and, most importantly, the operational changes necessary to implement The Wyevale Way."

Sales in the 26 weeks rose by 0 . 4 per cent to £108.6 million, while like for like sales increased by 0.7 per cent.

Meanwhile profits before tax were 7.2 per cent ahead at £16.74 million.

The performance was helped by good growth in the company's new ranges, particularly in the patio, wood and stone products which were up by 8.5 per cent.

The company's wild bird care range saw sales soar by 35 per cent, but sales of horticulture items remained the same as last year. However the impact of the slowdown in consumer spending was seen in the sales of furniture and barbecues, where sales declined by 15 per cent.

Mr Williams said: "As I said at our recent EGM it has been an extraordinary time at Wyevale since I joined on March 1. We have achieved a lot and have much more to do.

"Our first-half performance has been resilient with like for like sales positive. Our costs have been well controlled with gross margin up 0.8p and our adjusted operating profit after finance charges up 7.2 per cent.

"However, in common with the many other retailers, Wyevale has been impacted more recently by the well publicised wider downturn in consumer spending and year to date our like for like sales are down by 0.6 per cent."

Mr Williams said his strategy, which involved refurbishing many of its outlets and concentrating on the larger sites, would take time.

Eleven centres were redeveloped in 2005 and have outperformed like for like sales by 11 per cent since relaunch whilst the six redevelopments in 2004 continue to outperform by nine per cent.

He added: "We have much to do on the journey from being a horticultural business into a modern specialist retailer but we are confident that the spadework is being done."