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Men's formal hire business hit by cheap suits

Men’s hirewear businesses are being priced out of the market as high street retailers capitalise on the trend towards smarter day-to-day dressing with increasingly cheap off-the-peg suits.

A shift away from traditional wedding attire such as tailcoats, a move towards slimmer styles and a readily available high street offering has led some businesses to try and stem the decline in rental sales by investing in more modern product ranges.

William Coe, managing director of department store Coes of Ipswich, said there is “a readjustment” taking place in the market.

“The split at the moment is 75% hire to 25% buying, but we’re seeing that quickly change. There is a readjustment happening; it used to be very traditional but now men want different styles, so we’ve added more to both hire and sell.”

Oliver Tookman, managing director of Robert Goddard, which has three stores in Cambridgeshire, one in Lincolnshire and two openings planned in Northamptonshire this autumn, said hire now represents 50% of turnover, down from 60% last year. Fit is one of the key factors causing the decline in hire, he explained.

“These days brands are offering competitively priced suits off the peg, at not much more than they can hire them for. Also, the trend at the minute is for slimmer fits – hire suits are typically larger because they have to fit a range of people, so it’s not hitting that mark.”

One buying manager of a nationwide department store said investment in new hire products is crucial to survival.

“Our hire business is level with last year but that’s because of things like kilts, which people don’t often buy, and mainly because we’ve brought in a lot of new products in fresher, modern styles.

“Our suit sales are up on last year and, realistically, why would you hire when you can buy a suit for £100?”

Suits sold by high street chains start from as little as £79 from Burton (which also hires from £109), £99 from Marks & Spencer and £149 from TM Lewin.

In its annual results for the full year to January 31, Moss Bros posted a 3.6% drop in like-for-like hire sales while retail sales grew 7.1%.



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