Halfords sales slide as Omicron fears keep shoppers away

Bike retailer says impact of Covid on December figures shows virus remains a challenge for businesses

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Last modified on Thu 13 Jan 2022 12.18 EST

Sales at Halfords dropped off in December, as the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid caused consumers to stay at home, while supply chain disruption delayed deliveries of some its children’s bicycles.

The cycling and motoring retailer said sales of children’s bikes started well during the 13 weeks to the end of December but were knocked by unexpected freight delays.

This was compounded by the drop in footfall at Halfords stores, as consumers behaved cautiously amid fears of Omicron.

The retailer said in September it was experiencing supply chain disruption, after previously benefiting from a bike boom during the pandemic as commuters and families tried out transport on two wheels.

Halfords said there had been a “strong performance during October and November but a drop-off in performance in the latter part of the period as the Omicron variant grew in prominence”.

Sales of cycling products during the festive period dropped by 2.1% compared with 2019, while sales of motoring products also dropped by 1.5% over the same period, leading to an overall fall of 1.8%.

The retailer closed more than 10% of its shops during the pandemic, as it sought to make its store estate more profitable, leaving it with 404 Halfords stores. Viewed on a like-for-like basis, by comparing sales at stores that remain open, retail sales rose by 5.6% during the final three months of the year.

Halfords’ trading during the festive period was boosted by the performance of its auto centres, where like-for-like sales rose by 33%, thanks for greater demand from drivers for MOTs.

The chief executive, Graham Stapleton, said: “The outstanding performance from our autocentres business confirms the rationale behind our recent acquisitions. With the recent addition of National to the group, motoring will represent more than 70% of our revenue, and we expect to carry out 7.5m motoring servicing jobs a year.”

He added that the company planned to offer car servicing in more locations across the country, at garages and mobile service vans.

The retailer said the knock to trading showed that Covid-19 remained a challenge for businesses, although it expected the impact of Omicron to dwindle.

Halfords also expects sales of motoring products to reduce in the coming months, as consumers take fewer domestic holidays.

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