In a weak retail market, Halfords bucked the trend and has today released figures that show the 402-store bikes and car accessory retailer saw pretax profit rise to £40.4m in the 26 weeks to the end of September, an improvement over the £33.5m reported at the same time last year.

Halfords reports 21 pc rise in first-half profits

Like-for-like sales have continued to strengthen into the second half, said a statement from Halfords.

In the six weeks since September 30th, like-for-like sales had continued to strengthen, particularly in cycling and car sat-nav and speed camera warning products.

In a 6th October trading update, Halfords had reported adjusted like-for-like sales for the first half had risen 4.1 percent.

The headline figures today are:

Revenue up 4.7 percent to £337.7m (2004: £322.7m)

Like-for-like sales up 2.6 percent

Operating profit up 8.7 percent to £46.0m (2004: £42.3m)

Pre-tax profit up 20.6 percent to £40.4m (2004: £33.5m)

Strong cash generation reduces net bank borrowings by £11.6m

Interim dividend up 8.1% to 4.0 pence per share (2004: 3.7 pence)

Halfords CEO Ian McLeod said:

“Our growth strategy, underpinned by our unique service proposition, has continued to deliver positive results despite a challenging retail environment. In the six weeks since 30 September 2005 Halfords’ like-for-like sales performance has continued to strengthen, particularly within cycling and in-car technology, giving us confidence for the second half of our financial year."

Despite the rise in profits, Halfords is still not part of the bicycle industry’s market-promoting Bike Hub levy scheme.

This scheme pays for the Bike It cycling-to-school project that is being expanded across the UK and is up for major awards.

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