Bikes and Lycra lift sales at Halfords

Shares in Halfords raced up more than 11 per cent yesterday as massive demand for bikes, cycle repairs and Lycra riding wear propelled the retailer to an 8.8 per cent rise in sales in the first quarter to July.

Perhaps inspired by the current Tour de France as well as the lingering effects of Britain's Olympic success in the velodrome last year, Halfords saw a 15.5 per cent lift in revenues from cycling in the three months.

Demand for bike repair work shot up 32 per cent, and the retailer has started selling more parts, accessories and kit on its website.

Cars have not completely fallen out of fashion, but austerity-struck Britons seem to be spending more on fixing them: Halfords' revenues from motor maintenance jumped 16.7 per cent in the quarter.

Part of the rise, the retailer said, was because of its new service fitting light bulbs, blades, batteries and topping up oil, at which it promises to charge 50 per cent less than dealerships. There was also a corresponding dip in spending on signing up professionals to carry out work at Halfords' chain of garages, Autocentre: cash going through tills at its branches open a year or more fell 0.9 per cent.

Total sales, though, rose 7.8 per cent thanks to seven new sites opening in the quarter.

Child car seat sales are still declining, Halfords said, thanks to more competition from other retailers.

Matt Davies, the chief executive, said: "Our retail performance reflected better trading execution in areas of opportunity whilst we were up against a weak comparative period.

"We are in the early stages of our Getting Into Gear 2016 plan [improving customer service, redesigning stores and developing the shop's website], designed to significantly improve our retail customer experience. Our focus is on delivering this plan over the medium term to drive sustainable and profitable revenue growth."

Halfords shares put on 36.3p to end at 354.5p.

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