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Moss Bros toasts surge in profits


Moss Bros has 125 stores in the UK

Moss Bros has 125 stores in the UK

Moss Bros has 125 stores in the UK

Menswear specialist Moss Bros toasted a successful wedding season as it posted a 44% surge in half-year profits and hailed the turnaround of its suit hire business after two difficult years.

The retailer, which has 125 stores, said first half suit hire sales rose 9.8% on a like-for-like basis - outpacing the 9.7% hike in retail sales and marking a welcome recovery after two years of falling sales.

Moss Bros said its move to introduce two new ranges of lounge suits had paid off as it tapped into a growing trend for more grooms and wedding guests to opt out of wearing the traditional morning suit.

The group said pre-tax profits jumped to £2.8 million in the six months to August 1, up from £2 million a year earlier, with overall comparable sales lifting 9.7%.

It added that the second half had also got off to a strong start, with sales growth picking up to 10.4% over the eight weeks to September 26.

Shares jumped by 5% after the half-year results.

Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said its first half was "another period of strong progress for the company".

Suit hire, which makes up 15% of the business, returned to sales growth in the first quarter after a tough two years, which was hampered by a lacklustre wedding market since 2013.

The group had also suffered in the wake of the financial crisis, but since the arrival of Mr Brick at the helm in 2009, it has been revamping ranges and stores and returned to profit in 2012 after a series of losses.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said the half-year results were ahead of their forecast.

"Brand perception is clearly improving as Moss continues to take market share," they added.

As well as a strong wedding season, hire was also boosted by Royal Ascot and strong eveningwear demand, while the group thanked recent steps to improve customer service delivery and its online hire offering.

Its wider retail business has benefited from the launch last autumn of new sub-brands - Moss London, Moss 1851 and Moss Esquire - and overall interim online sales surged by 59% on a year earlier, now making up 10% of group turnover.

Moss Bros added it was in the "very early stages" of trialling its brand overseas, adding it is launching a two store franchise pilot in the Middle East, with the first shop set to open there later this year.