Interview: Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick
Moss Bros’ clothing hire business has been declining for a number of years but with customers’ buying habits now changing the company is positioning itself for a potential renaissance in the hiring of clothes.
Brian Brick, chief executive of Moss Bros, says: “The customer is looking at things in a different way. The areas of the market that are really growing are rentals, subscription, second-hand and personalisation. All these new areas could be a bullseye for us.”
He outlined some of his strategic thinking for Moss Bros while releasing half year results (for the 26 weeks ended July 27) for the business that showed flat like-for-like sales in stores while online was 20% up on the same period last year, which pushed online sales to account for 15% of total group turnover.
Against this backdrop Brick is working hard to maximise the value of the company’s 127 units in an integrated multi-channel model where the economics of running stores at present rental levels is a challenge. “We still see the role of the store as important but footfall is a challenge. We’re having conversations with landlords…we’re not happy to pay above market rentals,” he argues.
The new initiatives planned for Moss Bros will undoubtedly contribute to increasing footfall into the stores if they prove successful. These include a pre-Christmas trial of the rental of items across a limited number of ranges. With inspiration from Rent The Runway and other such specialists Brick is keen to try this across a wider range of clothing than just the suits and formalwear of the past.
This will then feed into a used items proposition that will give the customer the option of either renting an item for a defined period, or buying it as a used item at a discounted price. The third prong of this new line of attack could be a subscription service, which Brick says he is currently investigating.
These new additions to the Moss Bros model will sit alongside its core retail offer in-store and online, which is undergoing some change as consumers’ behavior changes. “Suit sales are up on the previous year but the way people wear them is different. It might be a jacket with a gilet underneath or a jacket with chinos. We’re moving away from the typical suit replacement cycle and more towards [suits for] ‘moments’.”
The other new aspect of the Moss Bros proposition is its growing move into peronalisation. This has initially manifested itself in the ‘Tailor Me’ customised suits offer that gives customers the opportunity to build suits incorporating the details they select. Order numbers grew 48% over the first half of the year to take it to 6% of the group’s business.
“We’re really looking to push this to over 10%. We’ll also look at a range of shirts to Tailor Me. All these new areas are a bullseye,” suggests Brick.
Alongside these many changes and initiatives he is keen to challenge consumers’ perception of Moss Bros and to this end he has employed media company Saatchi to undertake a campaign. This includes Tailor Me ads running on London Underground billboards: “We need to develop the essence of the Moss Bros brand and perception.”
Brick says there is a need to get people to understand that Moss Bros has changed and that despite what many people think, the hire business is only 10% of total group sales. But he is quick to add that he does not intend to miss out on the current growing interest in the new ways of hiring and purchasing of used clothing.
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