Formalwear retailer Moss Bros recorded a 1.7% uplift in first half retail like-for-likes as profits improved as it plans to open websites overseas.

The 133-store menswear retailer posted a 5% year-on-year rise in operating profits to £2.2m in the six months to July 27, while pre-tax profits were flat at £2.2m. Total sales rose 1.2%.

Like-for-like hire sales fell 7.2%. However, Moss Bros said sales in the division would improve in the second half as the wedding season ends and its eveningwear lines become more popular.

Moss Bros reported trading in the eight weeks to September 21 has been “encouraging” as total like for likes rose 4.9%.

The retailer said: “Trading improved as weather returned to seasonal norms. The board, although mindful of the fragile external trading environment, anticipates that the outturn for the full year will be in line with market expectations.”

Moss Bros’ online sales boomed 164% following the launch of a new retail site in January. A transactional hire website is planned for November 2013.

In the second half of the year the retailer said it will launch country-specific local currency websites.

The retailer refitted four stores in the first half as part of its programme to modernise the Moss Bros store portfolio, the new stores traded ahead of the old store design and are on target to pay back the investment in three years. A further ten stores are planned to be refitted in the second half of the year.  

Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said: “These results reflect another period of good progress for the company. Trading improved during the period as the abnormally cold and wet weather in February and March was replaced by more seasonal conditions.

“Hire, as anticipated, had a difficult first half but we expect an improvement in the second half of the year as we move out of the wedding season into eveningwear, where we are already seeing good growth on the previous year.”

Following customer research, Moss Bros has also decided to return to its Moss Bros branding rather than the Moss branding it has introduced in recent years.

He added: “The decision to return to the heritage brand of Moss Bros was supported by strong feedback from our customer insight programme. This research is helping us to prioritise how best to leverage the resonance the brand has with current and potential customers of all age groups.”