Halfords to reveal fresh sales woe

HalfordsBicycles to car repair firm Halfords and wholesaler Booker provide the focus for the City next week.

The mild spring weather and record petrol prices will spell more sales woe for Halfords when it updates the market on Thursday.
Petrol prices earlier this month broke through the £1.40 barrier for the first time, forcing people to use their cars less and cut back on car maintenance products, while sales of de-icer and windscreen scrapers will suffer from the warm start to 2012.

The group recently said sales of jerry cans rose by six times at the end of March amid fears that a tanker drivers' strike would create petrol shortages, but this is not expected to have a big impact on its results.

However, the chain, which operates 467 stores, is set to benefit from more strong bike sales after the recent success of British cycling that has seen Mark Cavendish crowned world champion.

When Halfords last updated the market, it said like-for-like sales fell 4.8% in the 13 weeks to December 30. The City expects the group to report further sales declines of 1.7% in the three months to the end of March but Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Oriel Securities, believes a decline of 3.2% is more likely.

Meanwhile, the UK's biggest cash-and-carry wholesaler is set to reveal another strong performance on Thursday as its convenience store customers benefit as people increasingly top-up at nearby shops.

Booker, which has 172 branches and supplies nearly half a million businesses including corner shops, pubs and restaurants, reported a 7% rise in sales in the 16 weeks to December 30 when it last updated the market, outperforming most of the supermarkets.

The Northamptonshire-based firm is expected to report more strong trading as its independent retailer customers continue to benefit as high petrol prices force people to drive less regularly to supermarkets and top-up more at local shops.

Franklin Walding, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, recently started advising clients to buy Booker shares. He expects the company to report a 16% increase in operating profits to £89.1 million in the year to the end of March.

© 2012 Press Association
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