“We are pleased with the performance of Moss Bros during the first half in what was a very tough trading environment,” said CEO Brian Brick

“We are pleased with the performance of Moss Bros during the first half in what was a very tough trading environment,” said CEO Brian Brick

Men's wear retailer Moss Bros Group has managed to lift first half sales and pre-tax profit despite ongoing cost pressures from wages and the weak pound.

For the six months to 29 July, profit before tax from continuing operations rose to GBP4.2m (US$5.6m), a 16% increase on GBP3.7m last year. The company said this was driven mainly by strong retail sales growth from like-for-like stores, new space and e-commerce underpinned by targeted promotional activity.

Total group revenue for the period was up 4.3% on the previous year to GBP66.6m, while group like-for-like sales were up 2.8% on last year, and like-for-like retail sales, including e-commerce, were up 5.1%.

E-commerce retail sales for the first half meanwhile, grew 14.5% on the prior year and now represent 11.2% of total sales.

Retail gross margin rate was up 0.1% for the half despite the re-introduction of a mid-season sale. Overall gross margin rate was 0.7% lower at 61.2%.

"We are pleased with the performance of Moss Bros during the first half in what was a very tough trading environment," said CEO Brian Brick. "We remain acutely aware that market conditions remain tough, with a highly competitive retail landscape set to continue alongside an unpredictable economic back-drop."

Brick acknowledged there are "significant cost headwinds," driven by the National Living Wage, the Apprenticeship Levy and weaker sterling, but said the group's trading performance continues in line with the board's expectations.

Fiona Paton, retail analyst at GlobalData, notes Moss Bros' new ranges and store-refit programme have helped rejuvenate the brand and appeal to new customers, especially young shoppers, but warns the retailer should not alienate the over-35s. 

"As mid-market clothing retailers such as Next, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer fail to excite shoppers, Moss Bros has the opportunity to draw in these consumers, but to do so, the retailer must better communicate its quality credentials, wide range of brands and its Tailor Me service, particularly as Asos moves into young formal wear," she adds.