Britain's biggest bike retailer Halfords has suffered poor sales of children’s bikes in the run-up to Christmas which in turn has dented its profit forecast.
A combination of the coldest December on record and a seemingly less active pre- and early-teen population who prefer computer gaming to cycling conspired to depress the market at what is traditionally a bumper time for the sale of children’s bikes.
David Wild, Halfords' chief executive, told the Telegraph that pre-Christmas bicycle sales were down 16% compared to the same period in 2009: "Cycling was a disappointment. Children's cycles were not the Christmas gift that anyone expected them to be."
Wild also cited the changes to the Cycle to Work scheme as another factor which hit sales in the last quarter of 2010, particularly sales of high end bikes where the savings offered have previously made well-specified machines more tempting.
The poor December weather wasn’t all bad news for Halfords, however, as sales of automotive consumables such as wiper blades, bulbs and batteries were up 29% compared to the last quarter of ’09.
As for the coming year, Mr Wild said: "It's a very uncertain environment. Customers are feeling very nervous with VAT rising and the public spending cuts."
With a prediction that Halfords profits will be at the lower end of an expected £127m to £135m range, the company’s shares fell 15 to 405p.