Moss Bros, the menswear retailer which saw off a takeover approach last year, predicted it would make a profit in the current year as the company reported reduced annual losses, a return to the dividend list and bouyant current trading.
Moss Bros was stalked by the retail entrepreneur Shami Ahmed last year but the Joe Bloggs founder failed to mount a formal offer.
Shares in the company jumped 3.25p to 42.25p as the group reported narrowed losses of £2.5m in the 12 months to 25 January compared with a deficit of £4.9m in the previous year.
The progress was underlined by losses of £3.7m in the first half moving to a £1.2m profit in the second. City analysts are now forecasting profits of £1m to £2m in the current year. In the nine weeks to the end of March like-for-like sales are up 9 per cent on the same period last year. This is partly because the comparison is with very weak trading last year when the group's underlying sales were down by 7 per cent.
Adrian Wright, the chief executive, said he was pleased with the performance so far but admitted that there was "much more work that still needs to be done". He said: "It has been 12 months of looking for stability concentrating on three key fascias and getting the cash flow coming through." He added the business had received no recent contact from Mr Ahmed.
The slimmed down group now consists of 94 Moss stores aimed at mainstream fashion, 24 Cecil Gee outlets specialising in younger fashion and 10 upmarket Hugo Boss outlets operated under licence. It also has its Moss Hire division which is now offering lounge suits for hire for £35. "It's for people who otherwise don't have a suit in their wardrobe and it's looking very positive," Mr Wright said. "It's for weddings, funerals and students going for an interview."
Mr Wright said Moss Bros was taking market share from Marks & Spencer, Next and Suits You with suits such as its "ultimate business suit", an all-wool garment priced at £149.
Moss Bros is concentrating on getting stock into stores more quickly, having four fashion seasons a year instead of two and adding more product innovation. The dividend is 0.75p per share.