Halfords boosted by Olympics bikes success

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Shares in Halfords put on an Olympic growth spurt yesterday after Team GB's success drove a spike in sales of bicycles, and investors toasted its choice of a new chief executive.

Sales of Halfords' bikes developed by gold medalists Victoria Pendleton and Chris Boardman, hero of the 1992 Games, were particularly strong, and were also helped by life-sized models of the female Olympian in its stores.

The bikes-to-car-maintenance group has unveiled Matt Davies as its new chief executive following the exit of David Wild in the summer. Mr Davies left Pets at Home in April after eight years during which the pets accessories retailer was sold to the private-equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in a deal worth nearly £1bn in January 2010.

The hiring and the fact Halfords posted a 5.6 per cent rise in group underlying sales in its second quarter to 28 September, the first increase for 18 months, sent the shares soaring by 37.5p, to 303.5p.

Cycling was the standout performer, with sales up 14.7 per cent in the second quarter. This followed a 9.6 per cent fall in the previous three months when bike sales were hammered by the dire early summer weather.

Along with its own-bike brands endorsed by Ms Pendleton and Mr Boardman, Halfords' cycling business also benefited from the "Wiggo effect" from Wiggins winning the Tour de France and Olympic events.

Halfords' chairman, Dennis Millard, said: "We were definitely supporting the Olympics. We had life-size models of Victoria Pendleton in all our stores and we traded the Boardman brand very hard."

The group was further buoyed by its Autocentres car maintenance business, with sales up 12.4 per cent in its second quarter.

Halfords expects its full-year profits will be at the upper end of City forecasts of £62m to £70m, although this will still be below last year's £92.2m.