Belfast Telegraph

Pedal power helps Halfords offset cost of a mild winter

By Roger Baird

Retailer Halfords, which has 14 stores in Northern Ireland, said a bounce back in bike sales helped offset the impact of a mild winter on its car parts business.

Shares in the firm leapt 9% higher as the group said like-for-like bike sales lifted 1.1% in the 15 weeks to January 15 - marking a turnaround after a disappointing drop of 7.6% over the summer.

Its improved performance on bike sales offset a 0.6% like-for-like revenue fall at its motoring unit, as car maintenance sales eased compared to last year due to warmer weather.

The retailer, which runs 463 Halfords stores in the UK, added that it racked up record online trading on Black Friday, while total sales on December 23 were the highest in its history.

New boss Jill McDonald recently put faith in a new turnaround plan to get the retailer's performance back on track, including a renewed push in the bike sector, with Olympian and Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins signed up to launch a new children's range.

Sir Bradley will help design eight bikes as part of his drive to get more children into cycling, with the range due to hit stores in July. The business said same-stores sales at its 310 Autocentres garages jumped 4.1% in the 15 week period, while overall group like-for-like sales rose by 0.3%.

Halfords did not change its full-year pre-tax profits expectations, which it forecasts will come in between £78m and £82m.

Last year the firm posted a pre-tax profit of £81.1m.

Ms McDonald said: "We are pleased with the group's performance, given the unprecedented weather conditions.

"Particularly pleasing was the strong growth in service-related sales and a return to like-for-like growth in cycling."

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard said: "Halfords has shown pleasing resilience at a time when weather conditions could hardly have been more difficult."

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