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Moss Bros hails progress online – but says full-year profits were held back by stock availability

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Moss Bros today said it made good progress with online sales in 2017 but that December proved a “tough end to the year” as in-store visitor numbers fell back.

The formalwear hire and retail business, a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, today reported group revenue of £131.8m in the year to January 29, up by 3% on the previous year. Group like-for-like sales grew by 1.6%, reflecting 2.9% growth in retail sales and a fall of 6.2% in hire sales.

Ecommerce sales grew by 13.5% to account for 12% of total sales. Mobile and tablet sales grew strongly – and now stand at 48% of total ecommerce sales. Pre-tax profits of £6.7m were 6.1% down on the previous year. Moss Bross said the group was now starting to personalise its interactions with customers, leading to more targeted campaigns.

Last week Moss Bros has issued a profit warning for the current year as a result of stock availability issues. Today it said that like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks of the new financial year were 6.7% down on last year and that while ecommerce sales were 4% up in the first eight weeks of the year they were also “substantially impacted by availability”.

Chief executive Brian Brick said: “It is frustrating that after a strong first half performance, which continued into the third quarter of the year, the final quarter’s performance was below the level we had forecast.

“We suffered from a significant stock shortage, due to the poor implementation of the project to consolidate suppliers. We left ourselves with too little ’running line’ stock to close out the year having bought cautiously for the second half of 2017. This has continued to hamper our performance into the start of the year.

“In spite of this issue, we have continued to progress the modernisation of the store portfolio, which is nearing completion and develop our omni-channel shopping proposition, including a better level of customer segmentation.

He said the business was now planning for “an extremely challenging retail environment, not least because of the uncertain consumer environment and significant cost headwinds.” He added: “However, there is no question that we have hampered our own position through the stock shortages and as this gets back on track, our strong consumer proposition is restoring momentum. We will ensure that we continue to invest in this proposition to protect our position.”

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