Scotts Miracle-Gro Company posted increased sales in its traditionally slow first quarter. Partly due to a 19 percent sales jump for its Scotts LawnService, this helps to narrow the net loss from a year ago. Sales rose three percent to $205.8 million from a year ago.

The Marysville, Ohio-based maker of lawn and garden products lost $67.7 million, or $1.10 a share, in the quarter ended December 29, compared with $73.9 million, or $1.21 a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Jim Hagedorn, Scotts chairman and CEO, said in a statement, “Continued consumer engagement, coupled with solid execution, leaves us well-positioned for the 2013 lawn and garden season. We are on plan with our initiatives designed to drive meaningful and sustainable growth in earnings and cash flow, while continuing to maintain a strong consumer focus.”

Due to the modest price increases and the continued strong performance of Scotts LawnService, the company continues to expect sales to rise one percent to three percent in fiscal 2013. The company repeated its expectations for fiscal 2013 adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations in the range of $2.50 to $2.75. It also expects at least $250 million in operating cash flow for the year.

“Our immediate focus is to leverage our cost structure with an eye toward margin improvement, reduced SG&A and improved cash flow,” Hagedorn said.

Scotts' shares were up about 2.5 percent.