HALFORDS’ Olympic cycle sales skidded off course this year as months of freezing weather rendered Britain’s summer of sport a distant memory.
The chain recouped any lost opportunities in the two-wheeled department though with bumper sales of de-icer and screenwash, allowing the retailer to maintain positive momentum for the year.
Chief executive Matt Davies, the former Pets at Home boss who joined the group in October, said: “We can genuinely claim to have helped keep the country moving during the big freeze.”
Davies said the “robust performance” showed how the balance of Halfords’ business can offset variations in the weather.
The firm, which trades from 460 stores in the UK and Ireland, posted like-for-like sales growth of 0.4 per cent in the 11 weeks to 31 March, helping underlying sales for its full year to 31 March increase by 0.3 per cent.
It expects to deliver pre-tax profits of between £68 million and £72m for the year.
The delayed start to the spring drove bike sales down 8.8 per cent during the 11 weeks, leading to an overall decline of 0.6 per cent for the full year.
Halfords had been enjoying a surge in bike sales after Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France last year and Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton stormed to Olympic glory in London.
But, in the end, growth in premium bike brands, such as Carrera and its range from Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman – plus a 26.5 per cent surge in online sales of parts, accessories and cycle clothing – could not offset the weather’s impact.
Car maintenance sales accelerated by 10.4 per cent during the company’s final quarter – boosted by strong demand for wiper-blade fitting and de-icing products. That helped underlying maintenance sales grow 5.1 per cent for the year.
Halfords has plans for a big expansion in the fragmented car-repair market and opened 23 “auto-centres” to take its total number of garages up to 283. The group plans to open up to 30 more during its current financial year, offering services including MoTs, tyre fitting and clutch repairs. The firm will provide an update on its strategy next month.
Davies said: “Any idiot can open large numbers of sites.
“We want to remain incredibly focused on quality sites that will be there to generate cash for the business for many years to come.”