What difference does it make if 19 seconds are cut from a Chip and PIN transaction time? If there’s not much going through the tills it amounts to the square root of very little.

What difference does it make if 19 seconds are cut from a Chip and PIN transaction time?

If there’s not much going through the tills it amounts to the square root of very little. However, in the case of Halfords, it’s one of a raft of changes implemented as part of boss Matt Davies’ Getting into Gear turnaround plan that has led to a rise in sales and earnings.

The fundamentals are a focus on service, authority and inspiration, better shops, improved infrastructure and enhanced digital operations. It all sounds simple but the devil is in the detail, hence the focus on concrete steps - of which faster transactions are just one - that take Halfords further along the road.

Change, like buying a new car, comes at a cost. In the first half Halfords’ total operating costs rose by 5.5%, mainly as a consequence of investment in service and staff. Rising costs sometimes ring warning bells among investors, but analysts seem confident that the investment is paying off. Broker Oriel Securities even expressed surprise that, on the evidence of success so far, Halfords’ chiefs are not investing even more heavily.

Halfords is only part-way through its transformation but is eating up the road at speed. To borrow a phrase from Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland, the direction of travel is right - and Halfords’ destination looks clear.

Morrisons plays catch-up

As Asos launches its dedicated Chinese website, poor old Morrisons is just getting around to selling food online in its domestic market.

Morrisons’ online debut, scheduled for early 2014, surely cannot come fast enough. The lack of an online offer and a c-store business much smaller than rivals’ took a toll on third-quarter performance. By the end of next year it will be able to sell online to more than half of UK homes. For the time being, however, many will continue to rate Morrisons sell.