The resignation of Halfords chief executive Ian McLeod could prove a “perverse” opportunity for the motor accessories retailer, broker Shore Capital has argued.

McLeod is to join his former Asda boss, Archie Norman, as managing director of struggling Australian grocer Coles. News of his departure came as Halfords posted a slowdown in its like-for-like sales growth at the start of the second half.

Shore Capital analyst John Stevenson said: “Perversely, we believe this is a great opportunity. McLeod is certainly a loss, although Halfords appears to offer a rounded management team to us rather than being dependent on a strategy developed and executed by one man.

“A change in management may well create the impetus for the business to provide stronger growth credentials, such as an aggressive roll-out of the stand-alone bike stores.”

While Halfords searches for a replacement chief executive, finance director Nick Wharton and trading director Paul McClenaghan will act as joint managing directors.

For the 17 weeks since its half-year, Halfords’ like-for-likes rose 2 per cent, against strong comparables in autumn 2006. Total sales climbed 5 per cent. In the 43 weeks to January 25, the 440-store retailer’s like-for-like sales rose 4.1 per cent and total sales increased 7 per cent.

Halfords reported that gross profit was in line with expectations. McLeod said: “We continue to enjoy growth in each of our key sales categories, underlining our strength, destination-store status and market leadership.”

Charles Stanley analyst Sam Hart said: “The performance is towards the lower end of expectations, but is very credible, given the slowing consumer environment and tough comparatives.”

However, Landsbanki’s Paul Deacon warned: “While it seems reasonable to suppose the company’s defensive qualities should stand it in good stead in the face of a weakening consumer, we worry that a maturing sat-nav market and more difficult environment might damage what has been an impressive top-line story.”

McLeod was headhunted for the Coles role by executive search specialist Barracuda. The Miles Partnership will seek his replacement.