Moss Bros has hailed “good progress” with its strategy despite a fall in sales during the second half of its financial year.

The formal menswear specialist posted a 3.2% drop in like-for-like sales during the 24 weeks to January 11. Total sales fell 3%.

Moss Bros’ retail sales, including its ecommerce and wholesale channels, dropped 1.8% on a like-for-like basis and 1.6% in total terms.

Online sales dipped 0.4%, while hire sales, which now account for less than 8% of Moss Bros’ overall revenues, slumped 17.7% on a like-for-like basis.

Brian Brick

Brian Brick said 2020 would ‘be challenging until we see an improvement in consumer confidence’

Moss Bros said new hire services “may be offered to address the challenges” faced by that channel. It hopes to update the market with its plans during the first half of its 2020/21 fiscal year.

The services would form part of Moss Bros’ focus on “elevating the brand” – something it is already doing through its ‘Tailor Me’ service – and driving full-price sales.

Moss Bros said it had been “successful” with the latter aim during its second half, with less promotional activity on old season stock and improved sourcing prices helping it register a 300bps gross margin gain.

Despite those improvements, the retailer expects to book an adjusted pre-tax loss of around £1m when it files its preliminary results on March 25.

Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said the business was “gaining traction” with its strategy despite the turbulent trading backdrop.

He said: “We have seen more intensive discounting from our competitors and a materially lower level of footfall across the high streets and shopping centres of the UK. Despite this, we have resisted discounting pressures, facilitated by our careful buying plans, which have meant that we are holding lower levels of terminal stock to clear.”

Brick added that 2020 would “continue to be challenging until we see an improvement in consumer confidence and a stabilisation in footfall across UK shopping destinations”.

He also called for “a realignment of occupancy costs to properly balance the costs and rewards of doing business in physical retail stores”.

Moss Bros now operates 128 stores, having opened one new shop, closed two and relocated two others during the period.