Halfords sales defy economic cycle

Halfords' profits have beaten expectations - clearly the economic situation isn't bad for everyone.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The car accessories and bike retailer reported sales up 1.7% in the 13 weeks to June 27. Like-for-like sales were flat at 0.2%. These may not ordinarily be the kind of figures to get shareholders doing bunny hops in celebration, but they come at a time other retailers are fearing the wheels coming off completely. It’s also in comparison with an extremely strong previous year, in which like-for-like sales in the first quarter increased by 8.4%.

It shows the strength of the Halfords business model. While other retailers are struggling as consumers, faced with higher food and fuel costs, cut back on spending, Halfords has seen a boost – driven by sales of bikes and car maintenance gear. All part of what its bosses describe as a ‘resilient and defensive’ business.

It makes sense. Given the tighter economic conditions, car owners are more likely to maintain their own vehicles than take them down to the garage and let mechanics find increasingly specialist and complex ways to rinse them of their cash. That or hop on a bike to get around, rather than having to pump their wages directly into their car’s increasingly expensive to fill petrol tank.

Halfords already sells about one in three of all bikes bought in the UK, and sales will also be boosted as more people switch on to the problems of carbon emissions. The chain also sells camping gear – which could prove lucrative with mortgages becoming harder to come by. Frustrated first-time buyers may be fearing life spent in a tent, but David Wild, Halfords’ new chief exec who joins the group from Wal-Mart next month, will be peddling all the way to the bank. 

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