Moss Bros this week provided a rare piece of good news for the high street.
Moss Bros this week provided a rare piece of good news for the high street. The menswear retailer returned to profit in its first half, and the story is one of self-help.
When menswear expert Brian Brick took the helm in 2009, the business was suffering. He carried out a review, which resulted in £3m coming out of the cost base last year. He streamlined the product, disposed of stores and sold off non-core businesses Cecil Gee and Hugo Boss.
Like-for-like sales were strong, with its hire business performing well – perhaps, Brick pointed out, partly down to being given a plug by Mayor Boris Johnson on the day of the royal wedding.
The result was a pre-tax profit of £2.2m in the six months to July 30, against a loss of £2.8m in the comparable period last year. Like-for-like retail sales were up by 16.3%, while like-for-likes at its formal hire business were up by 12.4%. The turnaround in sales, and offloading two businesses, has meant the business is now cash rich. Investment is key for future growth.
A new-model store opened in Canary Wharf in May, combining for the first time the three key parts of the business: hire, retail and bespoke. More store refurbishments are on the way.
Brick is looking at the future shopping habits of its customers, and has started an 18-month project on its multichannel strategy. Around £1.2m will be invested in systems, the hire and bespoke businesses will be added to its transactional website, and it plans to introduce click and collect to all stores. With internet sales accounting for 1% of total sales, there is significant scope for growth.
Brick and his team have shown that knuckling down and sticking to your knitting can provide the winning formula, and in the tough economic climate, it is even more important. Moss Bros doesn’t have to be a one-off either – if other retailers are currently bumping along the bottom, getting back to basics would do them no harm.