UK cycling glory drives boost in bike sales

LONDON -- Britain's cycling success in the London Olympic Games and the Tour de France has put bicycle sales in a higher gear, a leading seller revealed Thursday.

Halfords Group PLC, which sells transport and leisure accessories, said bike sales have surged since Bradley Wiggins in July became the first Briton to win the Tour de France and Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton helped the country win multiple gold medals at the Olympics.

Halfords said its cycling division saw same-store revenues up 14.7 percent in the quarter to Sept. 28 compared with the year before. By contrast, they were down 9.6 percent in the first quarter.

Overall, Halfords' sales in the first half of the year were 0.4 percent higher.

Investors were impressed and the company's share price jumped 14 percent.

"Halfords has proved a clear beneficiary of British cycling success," said Keith Bowman, equity analyst at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown.

Despite the good news, the company remains cautious given a difficult economic outlook. Consumers are still reluctant to splash out at a time when the country remains in recession and the government is imposing austerity measures to get a grip on public finances.

"Our second half planning assumptions remain cautious given the prevailing pressures on the consumer as we approach the important winter and Christmas trading periods," Halfords chairman Dennis Millard said.

Halfords, like many British retailers has been hit hard by the recession and a profit warning in July effectively cost the job of chief executive David Wild.

Halfords said it has found a replacement, with Matt Davies joining the company with immediate effect.