Moss out of luck as hire sales fall

Moss Bros said the wedding industry was bouncing back after suit hire sales fell 9.5% as couples avoided tying the knot in an "unlucky 13" year.

Moss Bros posted rising profits despite a fall in hire sales after a difficult year for the wedding industry.
Moss Bros posted rising profits despite a fall in hire sales after a difficult year for the wedding industry.

The fall in wedding suit hire sales has now stabilised, down 1.2% on an underlying basis so far this year but up in March, according to Moss Bros.

It saw overall annual hire sales drop for the first time since 2008, down 6.4% after the wedding hit offset strong demand for evening wear, Royal Ascot and school proms suit hire.

Moss Bros said: " 2013 was a difficult year for the wedding hire market.

"This may have been due, in part, to the widely reported '2013 effect' of customers avoiding an unlucky year."

Overall comparable sales across its 133 stores rose 4.2% after an impressive Christmas, helping pre-tax profits surge 42% to £4.4 million in the year to January 25.

The group upped its profit guidance in January after posting a 12.9% jump in like-for-like sales over the five weeks to January 11, with margins protected as it held off from launching clearance sales until Boxing Day.

Moss Bros said sales have risen 7.3% in the first eight weeks since its year end, with comparable retail sales continuing to rise thanks to a good response to its spring/summer range.

The group also announced plans to revert back to Moss Bros branding across its stores after many years trading as Moss.

It will roll out the branding as it refurbishes stores, while it is also renaming its suit ranges from this autumn, with Moss London replacing Ventuno, Moss Esq. in place of Dehavilland and Blazer changed to Moss 1851.

Moss Bros has staged a recovery in recent years, with chief executive Brian Brick revamping ranges and stores and building an online presence since taking over at a low point for the group in 2009.

It has been refitting shops in the chain, with plans to overhaul another 28 this financial year, while launching an online click and collect service and a transactional hire website in November.

Moss Bros said retail online sales jumped 209% over the past year and now account for just over 5% of all revenues, adding its hire site had seen better-than-expected levels of traffic so far.

Retail expert Freddie George at Cantor Fitzgerald said: "The major attraction of the company is the potential for the development of the retail online platform."

"In our view, however, the real step up in performance will occur now that the transactional hire platform has gone live," he added.