Halfords hit as bike sales fall

HALFORDS issued a worse-than-expected profit forecast yesterday as poor sales of children’s bicycles over Christmas hit the retailer.

Cycle sales fell 16 per cent on a like-for-like basis as parents bought gadgets and electronic games instead of bikes.

The weakness in bicycles was in contrast to strong car maintenance sales which were up 12 per cent.

That was sparked by poor weather meaning more cars breaking down.

Like-for-like sales in the retail division overall were down 6.6 per cent in the 13 weeks to 31 December.

UBS had predicted a four per cent fall while Citigroup had put the figure at five per cent.

Halfords said profits for the year to April would be near the bottom of the current range of City forecasts of between £127m and £135m.

Demand for premium cycles under the government’s Cycle to Work scheme also dropped.

Halfords, which runs over 460 Halfords stores and the 240-site Nationwide Autocentres car servicing business, said it was disappointed with its cycle sales which were reduced by the snow before Christmas.

Chief executive David Wild said: “People looked out of the window and saw the snow and came to the conclusion that their children would not be able to ride their bikes immediately.”

Wild added: “That’s why they tended to buy electronic goods that could be used at home. But we were very pleased with the performance of our repairs centres.”

The retailer bought Nationwide Autocentres in February last year for £73m and is rebranding the business under the Halfords banner.