Halfords reveals that web business is growing and provides details of its European ambition in annual report

Cycle shoppers spending more time online

Halfords is ploughing investment into its online offering with key improvements in time for Christmas, according to its Annual Report and Accounts 2009.

The report, which accompanies its year-end results announced last month, detailed that consumers are already spending more time on its site, and praised the success of the ‘Reserve and Collect’ service.

The report said: “Enhancing our online offer and further extending our multi-channel presence is a clear investment priority. During 2008 our web platform was renewed providing a far more contemporary, functional and user-friendly shopping experience.

“The impact of this renewal was immediately apparent from improvements in key performance metrics such as visitor numbers, dwell time and customer conversion. Average dwell time on our website increased to seven minutes and the average spend of customers who had researched online and then visited the store was £49, compared with £21 from customers who just visited the store.

“During 2009 we will further enhance and expand our multi-channel offering through the introduction of ‘Order & Collect’. This proposition, which will be in place in advance of the key Christmas trading period, will make our maximum range available to all stores by allowing customers to order from home or in-store any product sold by Halfords for delivery and collection in a store of their choice.”

The report also said that the troubling economic climate had affected the retailer, bringing it a year-on-year decline in revenues for the first time in over 20 years. But Halfords asserted that it was tackling the tough conditions: “Through proactive and decisive management throughout the business, however, the Group has delivered year-on-year underlying operating profit growth, particularly in its core UK operations, and has demonstrated that the Halfords business is adaptable, successful and resilient throughout the economic cycle.”

But the global recession hasn’t reduced the firms European growth ambitions. In the report, Halfords announced that it has targeted 150 stores for the Central European market in its long-term estimates.

Halfords, which currently employs approximately 10,000 colleagues in its store network, is to open 10 to 15 stores in the UK over the current financial year. Of its stores 226 now have a mezzanine level for cycling and a further 100 stores have been lined up for mezzanine introduction.

The report also took the time to praise the Apollo brand – the UK’s biggest bicycle brand according to Halfords – and a growing children’s market which has seen a 22 per cent uplift in bicycle sales: “The Group’s licensed offer was supported by Apollo, the UK’s leading bike brand, which is the only children’s cycle range designed to comply fully with the stringent European Cycle Safety Standards.”

The rebranding exercise, announced in April, cost Halfords £1.2 million, according to the report. The retailer also took the opportunity to reaffirm that increasing share in the premium cycle market is a key target for the future.

BikeBiz’s full Halfords interview with be published online tomorrow, but you can read it now on our downloadable magazine here, or online at Issuu here.

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