Halfords benefited from a boom in electric bikes and scooters to report a “solid” third-quarter performance and maintain its full-year profit forecast after three warnings in a year.
The cycles and car parts retailer expects a full-year profit of £50m to £55m, tallying with what it said in September when it lowered its forecast to that range, the group said in a trading update on Thursday. The group’s shares rose nearly 6 per cent in early London trading.
Cycling sales, which have been sluggish for much of the past year as consumers have held back from big-ticket items, were up 5.9 per cent in the 14 weeks to January 3. Sales of e-bikes and scooters almost doubled, said chief executive Graham Stapleton, and now account for about 14 per cent of cycling sales.
“There is absolutely no doubt that consumers are embracing all types of electric vehicle from scooters to cars,” said Mr Stapleton, a year into his tenure. “It is becoming material in what we sell.”
Children’s bikes were big sellers, helped by the company’s decision to accept new orders until shortly before Christmas Day. It assembled 86,000 bikes in the week before December 25.
However, motoring sales in Halfords stores were down 2.7 per cent in the 14-week period. “There has been no incremental sales benefit from the weather, with a mild winter so far, similar to last year,” the company said.
Sales from autocentres rose 4.6 per cent from a year earlier. Part of Mr Stapleton’s strategy is to increase exposure to services, which account for more than a quarter of group sales. In September, Halfords acquired McConechy's and Tyres On The Drive, which performed in line with expectations.
Weak market conditions have hampered the efforts of Mr Stapleton, appointed as chief executive a year ago, to turn Halfords to a more integrated and service-driven company. Its shares were among the worst-performing of the FTSE 350 general retail sector last year amid several profit warnings and a dividend cut.
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