Halfords stays on track with half-year rise

Halfords weathered the impact of warehouse problems and poor sales of bicycles yesterday as it revealed a 13 per cent improvement in half-year profits.

The rise to £68.7m in the six months to 1 October was helped by cost-cutting measures, its growing business helping consumers to fit car parts and increased website sales.

Sales in its core retail business fell 4.2 per cent to £407m in a period in which availability suffered after it opened a new warehouse in Coventry. The figure was down 4.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis and has remained under pressure with a decline of 5 per cent in the first six weeks since the end of the half-year.

Like-for-like sales of bikes, which include its range sponsored by Chris Boardman, declined by 1 per cent in the past quarter due to poor availability caused by the opening of the warehouse and problems with suppliers in the Far East.

Halfords bought Nationwide Autocentres in February and is in the process of rebranding the centres under the Halfords Autocentres brand. It plans a national advertising campaign in the spring to push its car repair and servicing business.

Halfords said it has put its distribution problems behind it and its Coventry warehouse is running smoothly. Teething problems from its opening resulted in an additional 1.4 per cent being knocked from like-for-like sales in the second quarter.

Halfords said it was on track to make full-year profits within analysts' expectations of between £127m and £136m and continued to grow its market share in car maintenance, premium cycling and outdoor leisure.

The company's website, which gives customers the choice of collecting in-store or home delivery, showed 57 per cent sales growth and now accounts for 9 per cent of its retail sales.