Halfords sales lift in sunshine

CAR parts and bike retailer Halfords yesterday cheered investors as good weather and the government&rsquo;s Cycle2Work fitness promotion boosted sales during the quarter.<br /><br />The group said total sales rose 1.3 per cent during the 13 weeks to 3 July, compared to the same period a year ago, as commuters rushed to buy bikes and camping equipment during the early summer months.<br /><br />But the group warned the early boost may dent second quarter sales, with outdoor leisure equipment generally being a one-off purchase.<br /><br />The group said its car maintenance division had also traded well, thanks to new products and the success of the company&rsquo;s in-store fitting service, with the number of jobs performed by staff rising 50 per cent on the same quarter a year ago.<br /><br />During the downturn, more people are opting to fix vehicles rather than buy new ones in a bid to save cash, analysts said.<br /><br />Chief executive David Wild said: &ldquo;This performance represents a solid start to the year and at this early stage is ahead of our internal plan. The trading of our core categories of car maintenance and cycling, where we continue to grow market share, together with a good start to the season in camping, is pleasing.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Wild also said new store openings in the UK and Ireland were likely to be towards the bottom of the firm&rsquo;s goal of 10 to 15, which would crimp sales growth slightly.<br /><br />Despite the buoyant seasonal trading in the quarter, the group said it remains &ldquo;cautious&rdquo; about the impact of the downturn, particularly in the second half of the year and in overseas territories, where sales remain challenging. Shares closed up two per cent at 348p.