Prom night demand suits Moss

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The booming school prom market helped menswear retailer Moss Bros more than treble profits last year as demand for formal wear sparked a surge in hire sales.

With proms now becoming a firm fixture in the UK thanks to their popularity in America, Moss Bros said like-for-like hire sales rose 3.1 per cent in the year to January 26.

The wider trend for younger customers to smarten up with black-tie outfits, as seen on talent show X-Factor, has also been driving demand for formal wear and providing a boost for the group, whose pre-tax profits surged to £3m from £900,000 the previous year.

Moss Bros, which has 101 stores and 34 outlet shops, said the growing popularity of evening wear helped offset disruption from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympics last year, which had hit trade in the first half.

Retail sales rose 4.1 per cent over the year and the group hailed the success of its burgeoning bespoke suit service.

Moss Bros Bespoke adds “theatre” to its offering, according to the group, and is now available in 18 stores with plans to expand to another eight by the end of next January.

But it signalled a tougher start to the new year as it said sales growth in the first seven weeks was “slightly” lower, with like-for-like gross profit down 2.4 per cent on a year earlier.

Wedding hire is also down on the year before, although Moss said this was in part down to the increasing trend for bookings to be made later in the season.

It plans to launch a new hire website in the second half, which it hopes will boost trade.