Like for like* sales increased 6.4% and total sales of £55.8m were 4.6% up, on last year.
Like for like* retail sales were up 8.5%, including e-commerce sales up 100%. Like for like* hire sales were 2.7% lower, an improvement from the 3.8% reduction reported for the first 16 weeks of the half year.
Retail gross margin was up 0.2% due to the reduced levels of residual stock. Overall gross margin was 59.1% (HY1 2013: 59.7%) due to the reduced participation of Hire in the overall sales mix.
Pre-tax profit was marginally lower, as anticipated at £2.0m (HY1 2013: £2.2m) and operating profit £1.9m (HY1 2013: £2.2m) due to the higher number of stores that were closed for refit in the first half of this year, compared with the previous year.
Underlying cash balance of £22.8m.
Interim dividend increased significantly to 1.7 pence per share (27 July 2013: 0.3 pence per share), in line with the progressive dividend policy announced in January 2014.
Following the adoption of Moss Bros as the master brand we successfully launched our new range of sub brands in Autumn 2014: Moss London, Moss 1851, Moss Esquire.
On-line capability continued to grow strongly, with e-commerce sales up by 100% on the previous year, now comprising 6.8% of total Group revenue.
The programme to modernise the store portfolio continues and, encouraged by the performance of the stores refitted to date, we have accelerated the refit schedule, completing 9 stores in the first half (2013 H1: 4 stores). 49 stores now trade in the new format, out of a total of 133.
Rollout of our 'single customer record' database across the business was completed in the second quarter, a significant milestone in our transition into a multi channel retailer.
Current trading and outlook
Trading in the seven weeks to 13 September 2014 has been encouraging with like for like* sales up 6.0%. Hire is well prepared for the peak eveningwear season.
The Group's trading performance continues positively, in line with the Board's expectations and the business is well placed to make further progress during the second half.
Commenting on the results and outlook, Brian Brick, Chief Executive Officer, said:
"These results reflect another period of progress for the Company.
We continue to invest in the future and make good progress in delivering our strategy. The successful launch of our new sub brand line up at the start of the Autumn 2014 season, in conjunction with our ongoing store refit programme, means our customer offer is now more closely defined and aligned with our target customer groups. Ecommerce continues to grow strongly and our plans to develop a fully multichannel customer experience are on track. We continue to innovate and develop our service proposition and added 'Login & Pay with Amazon', putting us among the first UK retailers to offer this functionality.
The decline in Hire moderated in the second quarter and we expect to see further improvement in the second half of the year as we move out of the wedding season into eveningwear. We continue to develop our hire proposition, both in terms of product offer and service.
The early response to the Autumn/Winter retail range is positive, with like for like* sales continuing to improve year on year.
The Group's financial performance continues positively and in line with the Board's expectations for the outturn for the year."