Halfords is aiming to reopen more than half of its stores to offer drive-through services after bike shops were designated an essential service under the government’s latest coronavirus control measures.
The car parts, bike and servicing group said it was “seeking to strike a balance between providing essential motoring and cycling services to the UK public alongside guaranteeing the personal safety of our customers and colleagues”.
At least 300 of the group’s 460 outlets will begin offering drive-in essential fittings and repairs for bikes and the exterior of vehicles. There will also be counters at store entrances where customers can pick up items from staff, as well as cashless payments.
There will be queue management to maintain two metre distancing. NHS and emergency workers will be able to get a free car check or bicycle service.
Halfords said trading had been “very strong” in the last few weeks but, given the latest government guidance on staying at home, it expected sales to drop sharply and annual profits to be at the lower end of or slightly below the £50m–£55m range pencilled in by the City.
The group closed its stores on Monday night after the government’s demand that the majority of the high street should shut down, including clothing and electronics stores, hairdressers and dining establishments.
However, bicycle shops are allowed to continue trading as an essential service, alongside supermarkets and pharmacies, under the government’s lockdown measures.
What do the new restrictions involve?
People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:
- Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
- One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home
Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:
- Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
- Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
- Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals
Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.
Graham Stapleton, Halfords’ chief executive, said: “In such difficult times the health and safety of our colleagues and customers remains our top priority and we continue to take all appropriate action in line with government advice.
“Halfords has an essential role to play in keeping the country moving, providing vital support to emergency workers, fleet operations, key workers and the general population as they travel for essential supplies and, where required, attend places of work.”
Halfords said many key companies and services relied on it to keep their motor fleets running, including the Ministry of Defence, the British Transport Police and several large UK utility companies.
There has been a surge in business for the bicycle industry in recent weeks, particularly for cycle repairers, with people avoiding public transport.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is also understood to be considering reopening its Evans cycling chain after seeking further guidance from the government. Evans closed its doors after a backlash against the group’s attempt to keep its Sports Direct chain trading on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment made the company a vital asset as Britons were forced to stay at home.The company declined to comment.