Stylish figures from Moss Bros

BY NIGEL COPE

The trend in formal wear triggered by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the death of the "grunge" style of sloppy dressing, have driven profits to record levels at Moss Bros, the high street retailer.

The buoyant performance in all divisions, which include Cecil Gee, Savoy Taylors Guild and The Suit Company, pushed Moss Bros shares up 10 per cent to 384p.

"People are dressing up a bit more and the grunge thing seems to have disappeared fairly quickly," Roland Gee, Moss Bros managing director, said.

The company has also benefited from increased university business, by offering special discounts to students for social events.

Moss Bros opened 11 stores last year and plans to open a further 10 this year. So far the company has hire departments in 90 of its 111 outlets. It has £19.5m cash at the bank but Mr Gee said an acquisition was unlikely.

"We're not interested in turning somebody else's failed brand around. That path is littered with failures," he said.

The Four Weddings factor helped to push pre-tax profits up by 81 per cent to £7.39m in the year to 28 January on sales 14 per cent higher at £71.1m.

Stripping out turnover from new stores, like-for-like sales increased by 11.3 per cent. The company now claims 7 per cent of the UK suit market, up from around 3.5 per cent five years ago.

According to Mr Gee, about 5,000 menswear shops have disappeared in the past three to five years.

"Most men like some advice when they buy a suit, and so we make sure we offer good in-store service.

"It is not just about cash 'n' wrap," he said.

The dividend was increased from 7p to 12p.

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