Excluding exceptional one-off items, the underlying profit before tax would have been £6.9m.
Managing director Alan Roper said the group enjoyed a positive year on all key measures, including strong like-for-like sales growth of five per cent, a one per cent increase in gross margin and debt levels that fell during the year in spite of making a significant acquisition. Shareholders were rewarded with a 33 per cent increase in the dividend, earnings per share growth of 51 per cent and a share price that rose by 62 per cent over the course of 2015.
Roper added:, "Whichever measure you use, 2015 delivered for us, which is all down to the hard work and commitment of our retail teams. I am particularly pleased that the growth in profit before tax of 47 per cent came on the back of a 34 per cent increase the previous year."
He said 2015 was the second successive favourable year for gardening sales and Blue Diamond enjoyed good profit growth in all the key categories of Gardening, Plants, Home, Clothing and Restaurants. Meanwhile, UK like-for-like sales grew strongly by six per cent, whilst the Channel Islands increased by a more subdued one per cent.
The group integrated Trelawney and Newbridge Garden Centres, which were acquired in November 2014 and January 2015 respectively. Festival and Trentham Garden Centres were redeveloped in late 2015 and early 2016 following the successful launch of Redfields Garden Centre in 2014. The response from customers so far has been excellent, Roper added.
He said Blue Diamond continues to focus on detail and differentiation in the core areas of product and store environment, which will enable it to maintain its place at the forefront of the garden centre sector and confront the twin challenges presented by the low-growth economy and the greater intensity of competition.
He said 2016 has started well for the group and after a slower than expected start to the year owing to the cold weather, it is performing ahead of the industry and trade is strengthening thanks to the brighter weather.