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Moss Bros cuts a fine interim figure

Moss Bros, the menswear group, pleased the market with trebled interim profits, a doubled dividend, and an announcement that the second half had started brightly.

The shares soared 37p to 375p as the company said taxable profits leapt to pounds 1.92m in the six months to end-July, against pounds 625,000 last time. The interim dividend advances from 1.5p to 3p, although the company said this was partly to spread the annual payout more evenly.

Headline turnover rose 18 per cent to pounds 30.1m, while like-for- like sales managed a 15 per cent increase. Earnings per share were boosted to 7.6p (2.5p).

Terry Donovan, finance director, said Moss Bros, which owns Savoy Taylors Guild, The Suit Company and Cecil Gee, owed part of its progress to changing demographics, with its products targeting the 25 to 65-year-old market.

Mr Donovan said: 'This market is the fastest-growing menswear market throughout the country. It has increased 30 per cent in the past 10 years at the expense of the 15 to 25- year-olds.'

The company had also benefited from targeting different style sectors. The Suit Company is its mainstream arm, Cecil Gee is the main fashion outlet, while Savoy Taylors Guild is geared to the classic, upmarket sector.

A return of more tourists, which particularly benefited the group's London stores, had also helped first-half performance, Mr Donovan added.

In the first six months, new shops were opened for Savoy Taylors Guild in Thurrock, and for Cecil Gee - which aims at the fashion market - in Sheffield. Five shops were converted to the Savoy Taylors Guild format. It is estimated that five more shops - two of them in The Suit Company format - will be opened by the end of the financial year.

Analysts are pencilling in full-year profits of about pounds 6m. Tim Kirkwood, at Panmure Gordon, said the figures were very good, but that he was concerned about store opening costs in the second half.

(Photograph omitted)