• Total sales increase 4.1%
  • Like-for-like sales climb 4.9%
  • Like-for-like retail sales up 7.7%
Total sales for the companys H1 period, grew 4.1% on last year to GBP 63.8m

Total sales for the company's H1 period, grew 4.1% on last year to GBP 63.8m

Men's wear retailer Moss Bros Group has said its first-half was in line with expectations, thanks to strong retail sales as a result of its store refit programme, and positive growth in its hire business.

Total sales for the six months to 30 July grew 4.1% on last year to GBP63.8m, while like-for-like sales were up 4.9% over the same period.

Like-for-like retail sales, including e-commerce, grew 7.7%, with early responses to the new season's ranges performing well. Like-for-like hire sales were up 2.8%, and while this was weaker than the first half of 2015, continued investment in the company's online hire service and the introduction of hire lounge suits is allowing it to reach a larger target audience.

Retail gross margin was up 3.3%, due to improved sell through rates, the removal of mid-season sale and more targeted promotional activity. Overall gross margin increased to 61.9%, compared with 60.1% in the prior year.

In line with its refit programme, which is designed to modernise the Moss Bros store portfolio, the company says its refitted stores have continued to achieve payback targets. Over the 26 weeks to 30 July, seven stores were refitted and an additional nine are scheduled to be refitted in the second half of the financial year. According to Moss Bros, nine new and refitted stores now trade in the new format, which is continuing to change customers' perception of the business to a modern, multichannel retailer.

"The half year under review was another period of strong progress for the company," says Moss Bros CEO, Brian Brick. "Having originally launched the Moss Bros sub brand line up at the start of the autumn 2014 season, we have ensured that our customer offer is more clearly defined and more closely aligned with our target customer groups. Alongside this, the significant ongoing store refit programme, which will be substantially complete by the end of this financial year, has continued to steadily build equity in the Moss Bros brand."

Michael Coombs, analyst at Verdict Retail, notes: "The suit specialist saw solid performances across both its retail and hire divisions, with retail outperforming as a result of its store refit programme which is modernising the brand, improving destination appeal, driving footfall and making it easier to justify its full price offer."

However, Coombs also adds: "With hedged currency only protecting the retailer for AW16 and most of SS17, retail prices and margins will be under pressure – especially when combined with the impact of the national living wage. However, Moss Bros is well prepared to try and mitigate these added costs by evaluating its supplier base and sourcing routes and maintaining a full price strategy with minimal, effective markdown events. 

"While others on the high street continue to struggle from unseasonal weather, we expect Moss Bros to remain on track to deliver a strong full year as investment in destination appeal, its brand proposition and omnichannel services continue to pay dividends."