LONDON Jan 16 Bicycles-to-car-parts group
Halfords said children's bikes and cycling accessories
had been high on wish lists this Christmas, helping
third-quarter sales beat expectations.
The group, in the early stages of a 100 million pound
($163.5 million) three-year turnaround plan, said on Thursday
core retail sales at stores open over a year rose 5.9 percent
year-on-year in the 15 weeks to Jan. 10, its fiscal third
That was below first-half growth of 7.7 percent - when sales
jumped on hot weather, improved ranges and a strong British
showing in cycling events - but ahead of an average analyst
forecast for 3.8 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
Halfords shares, up almost 40 percent on a year ago, had
risen 7.1 percent to 493.8 pence by 1014 GMT, making them the
top gainer on the FTSE 250 index which was marginally down.
Despite gaming consoles and tablets topping many Christmas
wish lists this Christmas, bikes were also in demand with
underlying cycling revenue up 19.5 percent, helping offset lower
growth in car maintenance sales due to milder weather.
"Cycling was again the stand-out performer, with our
customers engaged by refreshed ranges," Chief Executive Matt
Davies said, adding the firm had allowed customers to wait until
Christmas Eve to collect bikes to help keep gifts a secret.
Like-for-like sales at its smaller vehicle service and
repairs arm Autocentres rose 0.1 percent.
The group said online sales, a key focus in a turnaround
plan which also includes staff training, new cycling ranges and
store revamps, rose 13.8 percent in the period, with the firm
taking its highest ever value of orders on Christmas day.
N+1 Singer analysts said Halfords' new strategy, which aims
to reach 1 billion pounds in annual sales by 2016, was
underpinning forecasts for coming years.
"And with further (forecast) upgrades possible in the short
term due to improving UK consumption, the investment case is
compelling," they added.