Austin Reed has said business has stabilised since reporting group profit fell 37% to £3.2m in the year to January 31, 2009, as men sacrificed suit purchases in the recession.

During the year, sales were flat at £110m, and EBITDA fell 18% to £7.1m. The group’s formal menswear chain Austin Reed suffered a 92% fall in operating profits on sales down 5.7% to £56.2m.

By contrast, womenswear chain CC helped offset some of the decline after the retailer focused on controlling costs, reporting operating profit up 15% on sales up from £50.4m to £53.4m.

Chief executive Nick Hollingworth said the accounts “included the first six months of the banking crisis and we thought that 18% down was an acceptable result in a difficult market”.

Hollingworth said Austin Reed’s business is 80% menswear, with 65% to 70% of that formalwear. He added: “Men are the first into a recession and the last out, and the easiest thing to stop buying or buy less of is suits if you already have a wardrobe full of them.”

He said the first half of 2009 was “still recessionary” but from September onwards “things improved and we finished the year trading strongly”. He said: “We’ve seen some recovery. Business has stabilised and we are doing at least last year’s numbers or a bit more.”

He added: “Over Christmas and January we have maybe seen the first few green shoots of men coming back to the market”. But he warned: “It is going to be a long slow climb.”

Last autumn the group launched a Viyella menswear collection, which Hollingworth said had “exceeded expectations”.

Austin Reed bought Viyella out of administration a year ago, and the group has since grown the chain from 37 outlets to 125 locations.