Car accessories and bikes chain Halfords is set to open a series of bike-only stores in Central London, with the first one opening later this year.
Wander round the shopping streets of central London and one High Street chain you won't spot among the Maplins, Sainsbury's Locals and Gaps is Halfords. The car accessories and bikes chain may account for about 25 percent of the British bike market, but its presence in the capital is limited to a handful of stores in the inner suburbs.
Not for much longer. Halfords has today announced that it plans to open a chain of bike-only stores in central London, under the name Cycle Republic.
Halfords has undergone a dramatic turnaround since CEO Matt Davies arrived from Pets At Home in October 2012. Halfords reported a 21.3% increase in its first quarter like-for-like sales this year including a 35.1% increase in premium bike sales
Davies told the Evening Standard's Simon Neville: “For me it was very, very clear that there was a huge gap in Halford’s ability to penetrate Central London. We penetrate most of the country really well, but there’s a whole market in central London we’re missing out on.”
The first Cycle Republic will open at Euston Tower in the next few months. Halfords says the stores will offer exclusive premium editions, an extensive range of parts, accessories and clothing, aiming to cater for cyclists in the busiest commuter areas.
Halfords acquired Boardman Bikes earlier this year, and recently announced its own high-end range, 13 Bikes. Both will be represented in the new shops, along with a full range of female-specific bikes and accessories.
Davies said: “[The new chain] is aimed at commuters and people who have a passion for cycling.”
Taking a magnifying glass to the storefront shot Halfords has circulated with its announcement of Cycle Republic reveals something interesting: a 7am opening time during the week. We just hope they'll be offering coffee too if they hope to get any sense out of us at that time in the morning.
This isn't Halfords' first foray into bike-only stores. The BikeHut store-in-a-store concept spawned a few standalone stores, and the Cycle Republic name comes from a 2008 experiment with a non-corporate look for some shops. However the Halfords of the time struggled with marketing ideas more sophisticated than "33% OFF!" and the recession hit Halfords hard; those stores were closed or rebranded in 2009.
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.