A new tailoring service and the collapse of Austin Reed have boosted the brand
“The brand perception is changing and we’re now the third-largest suit retailer in the country, so our more fashionable offer, together with the changes we’ve made, mean we’re continuing to grow,” said Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick as he unveiled another set of growing sales and profits for the 26 weeks to 30 July.
The firm introduced its Tailor Me personalisation service to all stores during the first half of its reported year. The service allows customers to get a custom-made suit in the fit of their choice within 30 days, and offers a choice 90 fabrics, three fits and various styling options such as linings, lapels, monogramming and buttons for an extra £100.
Brick said he is pleased with the initial customer responses to Tailor Me, which he believes improves the overall customer offer. Moss Bros also added Hardy Amies to its roster of third-party brands for spring 16, joining labels such as Ted Baker, DKNY and French Connection.
He said the firm “must be one of the beneficiaries” of the demise of Austin Reed, which collapsed earlier this year. The name was subsequently bought by Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
“Austin Reed has been declining for a long time so we have been picking up some of that business for a while – it was more of a steady decline,” he said.
In the hire business, which accounts for 15% of total sales, Brick said newer items, such as lounge suits, are performing well and the firm will be adding more slim-fit suits and tweed jackets to further expand the offer for next year.
Moss Bros has been refurbishing its 125 stores and has completed work in around 90 – the remainder are set to be finished next year. It has opened stores in Stratford and Worcester since the half year end and will open in Intu Merry Hill next month.
“I think we have managed to trade well against a backdrop of challenging conditions because spring/summer is very event-led for us. It is driven by weddings and occasions, and we have a big prom business,” said Brick. “We are a destination so people come to the high street to come to Moss Bros and we’re growing market share.
“So far we’ve not seen an impact from Brexit, but retail has never been easy: it’s always been challenging and this is no different. The reality is that if the season is colder then people will sell more outerwear and heavier items at full price but that is just something we can’t do much about.”
Moss Bros is also set to recruit a new buying and merchandising director as Paul Sheldon is leaving the firm after almost eight years. The firm appointed its first customer director, former BskyB director Debbie Bond in March, while Charles Tyrwhitt finance director Tony Bennett joined in the same role last August accompanied by former Ann Summers managing director Paula Minowa as chief operating officer.