Halfords sees the wheels come off cycles

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Cyclists and campers have deserted Halfords since March and the bike and car accessories retailer reported a "very disappointing" start to the new year.

The warning, alongside a 27 per cent plunge in its annual profits, spooked the markets yesterday and sent the shares sliding 13 per cent, or 36.8p, to 239.1p.

The retailer said: "In particular we have not seen the usual seasonal demand for cycling and outdoor leisure products."

Halfords, which sells one in four of the bikes that are boughtin the UK, is hoping that sales will pick up again after the wettest April on record.

The chief executive, David Wild, added that the timing of bank holidays, with the extra day for the Royal Wedding and an earlier Easter, also meant that the outdoor activity season started earlier last year.

He said: "I don't want to go into the weather because it's something that retailers always talk about but it is encouraging that the weakness was in cycling and outdoors, which suggests it is just a short-term blip."

The company posted £92.2m in pre-tax profits for the year to 30 March, which was down from £125.6m the year before.