Moss hopeful of navigating downturn

Moss Bros reported a deterioration in sales today, but said it was well placed to limit any further downside from the current testing conditions.

The menswear retailer, which announced losses of £1.4bn (€1.8bn) in April, said like-for-like sales dipped 1.5% in the first 19 weeks of the current financial year, although this was offset by tighter stock levels.

Sales were up 0.9% in the first nine weeks of the year, meaning trading is likely to have dropped 3.4% in the intervening 10 weeks.

Chief executive Philip Mountford said: “The men’s retail market continues to be extremely challenging but management believes the business is well set up to navigate this difficult period.

“As the UK’s No 1 branded suit specialist with a wide range of fashionable suit collections, we are well differentiated from our competitors.”

The company, which also operates Hugo Boss and Cecil Gee stores, said it was now fully focused on its business operations after Icelandic retail investment group Baugur dropped a £40.2m (€51m) takeover offer last month.

Baugur blamed recent changes in the Moss shareholder register for scuppering its chances of successfully completing a takeover. As well as members of the founding Moss and Gee families, major shareholders at Moss include fashion and furnishing chain Laura Ashley.

It emerged today that Laura Ashley had increased it stake to 10.05%.

The company is currently carrying out a three-year strategic plan, which will see it re-invest in its current portfolio, grow the core Moss chain and develop its Asian supply chain. It has also moved the focus of its mainstream Moss stores away from the lower priced end of the menswear market, where competition is strongest.

Moss said today it continued to manage its working capital “very tightly”, with the amount of stock over six months old reduced by 41% in the 19 week period. Total stock balances were down 10%.

The company added in a trading statement: “Following earlier management actions and ongoing initiatives, the business is well placed to both limit any further downside from a continuing volatile environment, and take full advantage of any improvement.”

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