Moss Bros gains from booming school prom market

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MENSWEAR specialist Moss Bros has shrugged off the gloom affecting other parts of the retail sector, with the booming school prom market helping its profits more than treble.

The firm, best known for its suit hire business, said the popularity of US-style proms and strong demand for evening wear helped offset disruption from the London Olympics and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which hit first-half trading.

Total revenues for the 12 months to 26 January rose 4 per cent to £105.5 million, driven by a 3.1 per cent rise in like-for-like hire sales. That pushed pre-tax profits to £3m, up from just £900,000 a year earlier.

Chief executive Brian Brick said sales during the first seven weeks of the new financial year were “slightly” below last year’s levels, although gross margins were stronger, and hire bookings for the wedding season were also down, reflecting the trend for orders to be placed closer to the big event.

He added: “We continue to make good progress and to bring momentum to the growth in profit in spite of tough trading conditions.”

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

Chairman Debbie Hewitt said: “We see no easing of market conditions, just a more competitive environment. Although consumer confidence in the UK continues to be fragile, Moss Bros is well placed to establish its credentials and to win market share.”

The board proposed a final dividend of 0.7p a share, taking the total for the year to 0.9p – more than double last year’s payout of 0.4p.