Halfords continued to enjoy impressive rises in sales as the nation turned to cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic in the run up to Christmas. Bosses said sales jumped 11.7% in the 13 weeks to January 1 – with cycling particularly strong, up 35.4% compared with the same period a year ago.
This was partly due to cyclists who bought bikes during the spring lockdown turning to Halfords for repairs and tweaks.
However the company, which also runs Autocentre garages, said it suffered from disruption at UK ports as the border with France shut due to Covid-19 in the latter part of 2020.
Halfords said this knocked sales slightly and growth was not quite as strong towards the end of the quarter, while also adding that the travel restrictions hurt sales of motoring products.
It said: “LFL (like-for-like) rates as we exited the quarter were lower than quarter averages as increased lockdowns weakened demand and supply chain disruption delayed stock arriving into the business.”
While cycling jumped 35.4%, motoring was down 8.4%. Autocentres’ sales rose 21.1%.
Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “We are pleased to have delivered a strong performance under hugely challenging circumstances, including our best-ever Christmas week.
“Despite a large reduction in traffic on the roads, our strategically important Autocentres business saw significant growth, with particularly strong demand for the services of our growing fleet of Halfords Mobile Expert vans.
“We are currently carrying out over half a million services and repair jobs on cars and bikes each month, and therefore continue to play an essential role in keeping the UK moving during this pandemic.”
Despite the strong sales, enjoyed because Halfords is classed as an “essential” retailer, the company said it was still reviewing whether to pay back money claimed from the furlough scheme.
It also said a decision to pay back money saved from the business rates holiday for retailers also remains under review – despite rival “essential” retailers including Tesco, B&M and Lidl all agreeing to pay their rates bills in full.
Looking forward, bosses said they expect the third English national lockdown and rise in Covid-19 cases to “inevitably impact demand for our motoring products and services, with fewer car journeys being made across the UK”.
They added it is expected this will have a less severe impact than the spring lockdown of 2020 but warned the cycling market is unlikely to offset the fall due to the poorer weather during the winter versus the spring.