May 16, 2018 / 8:37 AM / in 10 months

Moss Bros says like-for-like sales decline slows; shares jump

May 16 (Reuters) - Moss Bros Group Plc said on Wednesday declines in like-for-like sales slowed in the first 15 weeks of the year, sending shares of the British apparel retailer and tailoring services provider up as much as 14 percent.

Moss shares were among top percentage gainers on the London Stock Exchange.

The upbeat numbers come as supply issues and a tough retail environment caused the company to post a more than 6 percent fall in annual profit and shares to tumble nearly 60 percent in the past one year.

Moss Brothers said total sales for the first 15 weeks fell 2.4 percent, much lower than the 5.2 percent fall it posted a year ago.

The company said like-for-like retail sales, including e-commerce, were down 5.2 percent, a slight improvement on the March run rate of 6.7 percent decline, helped by a recovery from the new season stock shortages.

E-commerce sales rose 11 percent, a strong improvement on the March run rate of 4.0 percent, the company said.

The formalwear specialist, which issued a profit warning in March, also said it was on course to meet analysts’ expectations for the year.

Moss Bros said the anticipated recovery in stock availability was on track and the stock position had improved from the early weeks of the current financial year.

“Today’s update clearly shows an improving trend in retail sales over the past seven weeks,” says Peel Hunt in a note, adding that the biggest issue for Moss was caused by low stock availability.

The brokerage, which in March downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy” and cut its pretax profit estimate by 63 percent, kept its full-year forecasts on Wednesday.

However, the company cautioned that “a fragile and more volatile” consumer environment continued. (Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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