Moss Bros says ride will get rougher for high-street retailers

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The Independent Online

Philip Mountford, the chief executive of the menswear retailer Moss Bros, has become the latest retail big hitter to forecast that trading conditions on the high street will deteriorate this year, as the menswear chain posted a fall in sales.

"Trading will get progressively more difficult," said Mr Mountford. "I don't think it will get easier for anyone on the high street."

In its interim management statement, Moss Bros posted like-for-like sales down 1.5 per cent for the 19 weeks to 7 June. Paul Deacon, a Landsbanki analyst, said: "There is little doubt that the company, like the rest of the industry, is in for a rough ride given the likely operating environment." Landsbanki forecasts a 4 per cent decline in like-for-like sales at Moss Bros this financial year.

Mr Mountford said he was "disappointed" that the Icelandic investment group Baugur, which has a 29 per cent stake in the menswear retailer, had walked away from its planned takeover. He said: "I still believe a business of this size should be in private hands." Baugur blamed changes to the share register – such as the fashion and furnishings retailer Laura Ashley building a near-10 per cent stake in Moss Bros this year – for abandoning its £40m indicative offer last month.

Mr Mountford said that Moss Bros would refocus on implementing its three-year strategic plan, which was largely put on hold in December when Baugur's takeover interest emerged. Asked about speculation that may leave the retailer, Mr Mountford said: "I am still employed by Moss Bros," and added that Moss Bros had not yet decided on its new chairman.

The non-executive director Rowland Gee was unavailable for comment concerning speculation that the Gee family, which owns a 5 per cent holding in Moss Bros, plan to sell their stake.