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Trend for proms gives Moss Bros a boost.

THE booming school prom market helped menswear retailer Moss Bros more than treble profits last year as demand for formal wear sparked a surge in hire sales.

With proms now becoming a firm fixture in the UK thanks to their popularity in America, Moss Bros said like-for-like hire sales rose 3.1% in the year to January 26.

The wider trend for younger customers to smarten up with black-tie outfits, as seen on talent show the X Factor, has also been driving demand for formal wear and providing a boost for the group, whose pre-tax profits surged to PS3m from PS900,000 the previous year.

Moss Bros, which has 101 stores and 34 outlet shops, said the growing popularity of evening wear helped offset disruption from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Olympics last year, which had hit trade in the first half.

Retail sales rose 4.1% over the year and the group hailed the success of its burgeoning bespoke suit service.

But it signalled a tougher start to the new year as it said sales growth in the first seven weeks was "slightly" lower, with like-for-like gross profit down 2.4% on a year earlier.

Wedding hire is also down on the year before, although Moss said this was in part down to the increasing trend for bookings to be made later in the season.

It plans to launch a new hire website in the second half, which it hopes will boost trade.

Shares have surged by 42% over the past year and were up another 1% yesterday on the robust full-year figures.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said the results showed the "mighty Moss Bros" had continued to perform well.

Moss Bros, which can trace its roots back to 1851 in London's Covent Garden, has been benefiting from higher sales since launching a turnaround plan.

It also sold its Cecil Gee and Hugo Boss stores in order to focus on improving its core business.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 23, 2013
Words:326
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