Halfords shares freewheel after unexpectedly strong April

Halfords shares soared on Wednesday after bosses said April had been better than they expected.

Shares in the bike and car parts seller had risen by some 11% at around 10am.

However, Halfords has not had an easy ride amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While many of its stores have managed to stay open, sales in the four weeks to the start of May were 23% below the same period last year, on a like-for-like basis.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “Whilst trading since our last update at the end of March has been better than anticipated, driven by a strong performance in cycling, considerable uncertainty remains and as such we continue to take all necessary measures to preserve cash and protect our financial position.”

Halfords said 325 of its retail stores are still open, serving customers at the front to ensure that staff can work in a safe environment.

It also still has 346 garages and 77 mobile vans in operation.

In the last few weeks of the 2020 financial year, in the run-up to the Covid-19 lockdown, Halfords said sales had been better than expected.

Bosses predicted that the company would hit the upper end of its previous guidance on adjusted pre-tax profit of between £50 million and £55 million.

The business said its liquidity has actually improved, despite the coronavirus crisis, as bosses worked to conserve cash.

Mr Stapleton said: “There may be less journeys now but those that are undertaken are even more important. As the UK’s largest provider of motoring and cycling products and services, we take our responsibility to keep the country moving seriously.”

He added: “Cycling has provided commuters with an important alternative to public transport and consequently we have seen significant growth within our Cycle2Work programme, cementing our position as the market-leading business in this segment.”