Menswear sector may face shake-out, Moss Bros warns

MOSS BROS, the menswear retailer, yesterday attacked Britain's regional shopping centres and said that Bluewater, the new "mega-mall" near Dartford, Kent, was already having an impact on neighbouring towns.

Moss Bros, which owns a string of menswear stores such as Cecil Gee, Blazer and Savoy Taylors Guild, said its outlets at Bluewater were trading extremely well but that sales had fallen at its three stores at Lakeside, the rival shopping mall in Thurrock, Essex.

Rowland Gee, the group's managing director, said: "I was at Bluewater on Easter Friday and it was packed to bursting. I then drove to Lakeside and I could have fired a cannon down the central aisle and not hit anybody."

He warned that the UK retail market was close to saturation and that Britain could see a shake-out in the menswear market similar to the last recession when an estimated 5,000 men's clothing shops closed: "The country has got to the stage now when there are enough shopping centres and factory outlets," Mr Gee said. He added that the impact was already being seen on retail rents even on top shopping thoroughfares like Oxford Street in London where some rents have come down by 25 per cent in six months.

The comments came as Moss Bros reported a dip in full year profits from pounds 19.6m to pounds 16.1m and warned of a tough year ahead. Underlying sales in the first eight weeks of its current year were down by 2 per cent, if new store openings are excluded. Mr Gee commented that the rush to invest in PEPs before the 5 April deadline might have been a factor as consumers deferred other spending.

He said that inflation was likely to stay low and that shoppers would remain cautious. "We are setting our stall out for a tough year," he added.

Moss Bros has been battling against a difficult menswear market as consumers tightened their belts. The company was forced to discount more of its stock and lost a full percentage point of margin in the process.

However, Moss Bros has entered the spring season with a clean stock position. In spite of this, the company managed to increase its share of the suit market from 12 per cent to 13.5 per cent and Mr Gee claimed that the business was on course to grab market leadership from Marks & Spencer by 2000.

The difficulty of the menswear market has taken its toll on Moss Bros' share price which has tumbled from 280p to 180p over the past year. Though the immediate outlook is challenging, the business is well-managed and financially sound. It has pounds 18m of cash and analysts expect an improvement in second-half trading when the millennium factor should provide a boost for Moss Bros' suit hire business.

Though Moss Bros has a major slice of the UK suit market it only has 3.4 per cent of the wider market for menswear and so claims there is plenty of room for growth.

The Blazer chain, acquired from Storehouse in 1996, is making profits and is not up for sale. Acquisitions are possible though the company would not comment on any possible interest in Austin Reed. There are no plans to expand into womenswear, the company said.

Peel Hunt is forecasting profits of pounds 16.5m this year which puts the shares - up 3p to 186.5p yesterday - on a forward multiple of 16. That is about right for now.

exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor