Halfords announced it expects its full-year profit before tax to be within the £90m-£100m range – almost double its £55.9m underlying profit before tax the previous year – claiming trading has been ‘stronger than we initially anticipated across the business’. This sum includes its repayment of the £10.7m it received through the furlough scheme, as well as the previously announced repayment of the business-rates holiday.
Despite poor trading conditions during the most recent lockdown, Halfords saw LFL growth in retail increase by 5.1% and in auto centres rise by 13.3%. Although lower than the 9.8% and 21.1% LFL growth seen in the previous quarter, continuing to achieve LFL growth during the lockdown is impressive, as Halfords said journeys were ‘c.40% below pre-pandemic levels’. Halfords’ financial stability compared to the smaller specialists that make up the rest of the market remains a distinct advantage during such volatile trading, especially in motoring and auto centres, which suffer as car usage drops during lockdowns.
Cycling continues to be a shining point for the specialist, seeing 43% LFL growth – an increase on the 35.4% seen in Q3 – as the lockdown drove consumers back to cycling. A recent GlobalData survey showed that of consumers who had cycled more since the pandemic began, 75% said that during the 2021 lockdown they have been cycling even more than usual. Halfords noted the success of its performance cycling business Tredz (60% LFL growth), as well as its range of kids and adult bikes, showing strong sales across the cycling board. The specialist also stated that while supply disruption for cycling had eased, possibly contributing to the uptick in growth in Q4 so far, it remains ‘sub-optimal’.