May 25, 2017 / 9:09 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Halfords sees early signs of "staycation" benefit

(Recasts with CEO comment, shares)

LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) - British bicycles to car parts retailer Halfords is seeing early signs of a boost to its business from more Britons opting to holiday in the UK rather than overseas due to the weaker pound, its boss said on Thursday.

The pound has fallen 13 percent against the U.S. dollar and 11 percent against the euro since Britain voted to leave the European Union last June, making foreign holidays more expensive and prompting an increase in “staycations” closer to home.

Halfords said its like-for-like retail sales rose 3.9 percent in the 15 weeks to April 28.

“We did see a real pick-up in some staycation related items, such as roof boxes and cycle carriers,” Chief Executive Jill McDonald told reporters.

“We are seeing early signs that that staycation effect is actually coming to fruition,” she said.

McDonald said the firm has not observed any noticeable weakening of consumer confidence, despite British pay growth recently falling behind inflation.

“We’re watching this like a hawk but we have not seen any impact on our trading, driven by consumer sentiment and the macro economic conditions,” she said.

The flip side of a weaker pound for Halfords is that it raises sourcing costs which have a negative impact on profits.

For the year to March 31 the firm reported a 7.5 percent fall in annual profit.

M&S BOUND

The results are the last to be presented by McDonald. She resigned earlier this month to take up a position leading Marks & Spencer’s clothing and homewares business and will leave Halfords in October.

Halfords made a pretax profit before one-off items of 75.4 million pounds ($97.9 million) - slightly ahead of market expectations of 74.8 million pounds, according to Reuters data, but down from 81.5 million pounds in 2015-16. Revenue increased 7.2 percent to 1.1 billion pounds.

“Profit performance for the year was impacted by the weaker pound but our plans are well developed and I am confident this will be offset over time,” McDonald said.

She said that although currency pressures will continue to impact profits in the current 2017-18 year, plans were now in place to help cushion the impact.

“We anticipate FY18 profit to be in line with current market expectations and remain confident in the outlook for the group,” she said.

For 2017-18 analysts were on average forecasting a pretax profit of 74 million pounds, according to Reuters data.

Shares in Halfords, down 17 percent over the last year, were up 2 percent at 366.2 pence at 0830 GMT, valuing the business at 728 million pounds. ($1 = 0.7700 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Jane Merriman and Keith Weir)

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