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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor