Gieves feels the chill of recession

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The Independent Online
THE KUDOS that comes from being a tailor to some of history's most famous names has failed to cushion Gieves Group, the Savile Row retailer.

The company has passed its interim dividend after sinking to a trading loss of pounds 247,000 in the six months to 31 July, compared with a pounds 264,000 profit last time.

George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington all liked the cut of Gieves's cloth. But wealthy tourists have stayed away from London, and an ill-fated opening of a shop in Milan has continued to be a drain on cash.

After interest and exceptional items Gieves's pre-tax loss amounted to pounds 530,000, against a pounds 467,000 loss last year.

Tom Scruby, the company's chairman, said Gieves & Hawkes, the UK retailing division, suffered lower sales volumes and reduced margins. The international division, which receives royalties from the Far East and United States, held up well. But the Milan store, opened at the begining of 1991, saw an exceptional loss of pounds 195,000 ( pounds 283,000 loss). 'With the benefit of hindsight Milan was an investment mistake,' Mr Scruby said. 'We are seeking a partner or purchaser for what is a valuable piece of real estate.'

Chivers, the large-print and audio books operation, suffered a trading loss of pounds 25,000 ( pounds 123,000 profit), largely reflecting cuts by cash-strapped libraries owned by local authorities. In the United States, poor sales caused a pounds 169,000 loss ( pounds 59,000 loss).

Gieves makes most of its money in the run-up to Christmas, but Mr Scruby remained cautious: 'Our budgets for the second half of the year look for a substantial reduction in the rate of loss.'

He said a restructuring to concentrate on core businesses had been completed.

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