Moss Bros chief executive Philip Mountford yesterday pledged "vigorous actions" to tackle the disappointing performance of the firm's core high street business.

Mr Mountford will take direct responsibility for the Moss chain, following a fall in like-for-like sales and an admission that its spring and summer casualwear collection had failed to appeal to customers.

The group, which has ten site across the Midlands, posted overall pre-tax profits of #800,000 for the six months to July 29, compared with #1.7 million a year earlier.

The drop in profitability came after Moss saw like-for-like revenues fall for the first time in almost four years. "Trading in the first ten weeks of the second half has not shown the growth in revenues we anticipated," Mr Mountford said.

"There have however been improvements in gross margin and Fashion in particular has achieved good growth.

"The inventory and cash positions have continued to be satisfactory and during the first six months we have moved to our new distribution centre, and operations have now stabilised."

Mr Mountford said he believed that like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of newly opened space, would grow 0.7 per cent across the year, compared with forecast growth of two per cent made in August.

Mr Mountford said he would personally tackle the Moss chain. He said: "This year will be a difficult year, but we believe this will be a blip, we don't believe we have flaws in our long-term strategy.

"Next year we'll be back on track," he predicted. Mr Mountford blamed problems on wrong products, slow turnaround of new clothes, and weak window and promotional campaigns.

"In the last for weeks we've already changed all of those things, and seen a step change in the business," he said.

Hugo Boss revenues were up 2.5 per cent and the new store in Trafford Park, Manchester, was trading ahead of expectation, the company said. The company has also rolled out its new Cecil Gee concept to a further two stores in the half year. A total of five of the group's 18 Cecil Gee stores have now been refitted within the last 18 months, it said.

Earlier this month the company announced that it had hired Michael Hitchcock as group finance director.

Mr Hitchcock was previously finance director of book chain Ottakars and has also worked for bingo hall owner Rank and international drinks firm Diageo.

"Michael has a strong record working in the retail sector most recently at Ottakars and we are looking forward to benefiting from his experience in the future," Mr Mountford said.