Boost for Moss Bros after summer of sport

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SUIT hire specialist Moss Bros has announced it is on course to deliver the anticipated levels of growth this year, with sales up on 2011 figures, in its interim management statement.

Like for like sales for the first 19 weeks of the second half of the year were 3.7 per cent up on the same period last year, with the company citing the summer of sport for many people deferring events until the second half of the year.

For the 45 weeks to December 8, like for like sales were 4.9 per cent ahead, while total sales were 4.6 per cent up.

CEO Brian Brick said: “We are encouraged by the trading momentum throughout the business which has continued into this year.

“We are particularly pleased with the progress and resilience of our hire business, which has successfully overcome the challenges posed by the summer’s sporting activities.

“We enter the important Christmas trading period in good shape. We continue to develop the business by leveraging the strength of our brands and our operational capabilities, whilst managing it to reflect the difficult trading environment.

“The board remains confident in the outlook for the full year.”

The company said the recovery in gross margins was largely down to the reduced cost in raw materials, along with an increase in direct sourcing. The overall performance will depend on the discounts offered in the final six weeks of the year up to and after the festive period.

As part of a five-year plan to refit 90 of its 136 stores – which includes six in Yorkshire – Moss Bros has overhauled 14 shops during this financial year and has seen an improved trading performance, as it expected.

A further 25 stores will be refitted during 2013-14 as part of its long-term plans.

The expansion of the e-commerce side of the business will continue into 2013 with a new retail website to be launched in January, planned to avoid a clash with the key selling period over Christmas and the New Year. The new site will provide improved functionality, with the click-and-collect service being extended to all of the company’s UK stores. To complement the retail website, a new hire site is also on track to launch during the first half of next year.

The company said it has maintained a healthy cash balance during the year and expects to end the 2012/13 financial year with net cash of £24m, compared to £23.3m at end of 2011/12.

Its preliminary results for the current financial year will be announced on March 22.