The boss of Halfords has warned that the UK cost of living crisis is creating “a risk to road safety” as drivers buy older cars and struggle with maintenance costs.
The warning came as the motoring and cycling retailer reported higher sales over the past 20 weeks as it was boosted by its expanding car repairs business.
The retail group told shareholders on Wednesday that total revenues grew by 9.2% over the 20 weeks to 19 August compared with the same period last year.
It added that sales were more than 30% higher than the same period last year, buoyed up by a strong performance in the firm’s autocentres business. Halfords grew that operation in December with a £62m takeover of Axle Group, the owner of the National tyre servicing brand.
Halfords bosses said its performance has been “in line” with expectations and held firm on targets of an underlying pre-tax profit of between £65m and £75m for the current financial year.
It also highlighted “good progress” against its cost saving targets and efforts to mitigate inflation.
Graham Stapleton, the chief executive officer of Halfords, said: “We are working extremely hard to help our customers with the cost of living crisis and have dropped prices across nearly 2,000 motoring essentials, ensuring that products remain accessible and affordable for all.
“Our motoring loyalty club is also proving to be extremely popular and has already attracted over half a million members since its launch in March … Over 70% of our sales now come from motoring products and services, and the fact that this area of spend tends to be more needs-based rather than discretionary is leading to a very resilient group performance despite the wider macroeconomic uncertainty.”
However, Stapleton warned that the increased pressure on household budgets, amid rising energy bills, could have a knock-on effect for road safety.
“Based on what we’re seeing in our garages and taking into account continuing issues with the supply of new cars, we believe the average age of cars will pass the nine-year mark very soon and could even creep above 10 years before the cost of living crisis eases,” he said.
“This presents a real challenge for the secretary of state for transport.
“Vehicle reliability has improved in recent years but there is no getting away from the fact that older cars are more likely to develop faults, are more costly to maintain, and are more polluting.
“This represents a risk to road safety, yet another squeeze on motorists’ wallets, and a threat to the UK’s emissions reduction goals.”