Sales stall at Halfords

Increased bicycle sales have not weathered the storm for Halfords. Picture: PA
Increased bicycle sales have not weathered the storm for Halfords. Picture: PA
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MILD weather and record petrol prices should have boosted bicycle sales at Halfords, but they are unlikely to make up for the ongoing decline in its core car-related business.

As people use their cars less they have cut back on car maintenance products, while sales of de-icer and windscreen scrapers will suffer from the warm start to 2012.

The chain, which operates 467 stores, said like-for-like sales fell 4.8 per cent in the 13 weeks to 30 December, and the City expects further sales declines in the three months to the end of March.

Wholesaler Booker, which supplies nearly half a million businesses including corner shops, pubs and restaurants, reported a 7 per cent rise in sales in the last 16 weeks of 2011. It is expected to report strong trading as its independent retailer customers benefit from the squeeze in consumer spending, which has prompted people to shop more at convenience stores because they have less cash to spend for weekly shopping at supermarkets.

Booker, which also supplies customers including HMV, Marks & Spencer and Odeon cinemas, has seen its share price quadruple in the past three years after chief executive Charles Wilson turned the business around.

Pasta and pizza chain Prezzo should unveil higher profits as it managed to tempt hard-pressed consumers with online offers and maintained its expansion drive. The group, which has more than 170 UK outlets, is expected to reveal profits of £16.1m for 2011, compared to £14.2m the previous year. The rise in profits is softer than previous years but in 2011 the chain battled rising utility and food costs – managing to offset them slightly with increasing its menu prices.