Halfords posts interim results on Wednesday, the first set since Matt Davies was appointed chief executive.
Halfords posts interim results on Wednesday, the first set since Matt Davies was appointed chief executive. It is far too early for him to have shifted Halfords up a gear, but he is likely to signal the retailer’s direction of travel after its previously bumpy ride.
Halfords has two things going for it. Like food retailers, it provides goods and services – such as MOTs and brake replacement – that are regarded as essential. On top of that, it also appeals to those with a passion for cars and bikes – the Top Gear petrol-heads who adore their motors, and the Bradley Wiggins wannabes who prefer two wheels to four.
The thread that links the two, and where Halfords has fallen down, is customer service. High standards are essential when attempting to appeal to non-expert customers with services such as fitting baby car seats, and equally important to win over car and bike enthusiasts, who expect staff to demonstrate Jeremy Clarkson-style fervour to match their own.
To meet that challenge there must be some big changes. Broker Oriel flagged in a pre-results note that, at the last count, 75% of Halfords staff were part-time. The most common contract is only seven hours a week, concentrated on Saturdays and Sundays.
The service imperative was one of the foremost reasons that Davies, who also brings consummate operational experience from former employer Pets at Home, was drafted in, and his credentials are impeccable.
It is likely that he will signal his intention to transform service at Halfords along with the first-half numbers. If he can come good on a service promise, Halfords should be able to shift its image away from mundane products, such as spark-plugs and tyres, to benefits, such as safety, the joy of the open road and the fun of cycling.
Halfords’ mission – to “help and inspire customers with their life on the move” – is nicely stated. Part of that is to be the “starting point for great getaways”. Wednesday will be a chance for Davies to get out his retail roadmap and provide a direction to convince investors.
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