Eight days before a quite fabulous opening Olympic ceremony succeeded in persuading even the overwhelming majority of Games sceptics that Britain was about to stage something completely different and a latent sense of patriotism was about to explode, an announcement was made from a factory in Redditch which shocked the business world.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

Following an unexpected 5.6pc fall in like-for-like sales, bicycle manufacturer Halfords issued a profit warning as the company’s chief executive, David Wild, was shown the door.

In the first seven months of 2012, as the Queen and James Bond prepared to leap together from a helicopter, Halfords’ share price had slumped by more than a third.

Despite this, Mr Wild remained adamant that the company was suffering from no more than a prolonged spell of awful weather, insisting that cycling’s burgeoning profile would shortly boost sales.

Three days following Mr Wild’s departure, Bradley Wiggins wrapped up a stunning Tour de France victory, celebrating in front of thousands of British cycling fans in the Champs Elysee.

Wiggins’ Tour success proved the start of a stunning run for British cycling over the following month, as Team GB cycling would go on to collect a dozen Olympic gold medals.

Aside from the charismatic Wiggins, a fantastically determined Sir Chris Hoy and tearful Victoria Pendleton were joined in the household name category by gold-medal cyclists such as Laura Trott and Jason Kenny.

Cycling had never been so popular and by the time Halfords’ next trading update, for the three-month period to September 30, was announced in early October, the retailer could report a 14.7pc rise in like-for-like sales.

Furthermore, there was a marked rise in sales of Halfords’ premium bicycle ranges, the Boardman and the Pendleton, each lovingly embraced by “mamils” (middle-aged men in Lycra) who delight in racing along the streets in imaginary pursuit of Messrs Wiggins and Froome.

Whereas the City had anticipated another miserable fall in Halfords’ sales, the company’s customers had other ideas and flocked to buy bicycles and cycling equipment in their droves.

The stunning rise in sales was accompanied by an equally impressive 14.1pc increase in Halfords’ share price on the day the quarterly figures were released; they’ve risen by a further 15pc since.

The Tour de France and London Olympics have not only inspired sales of bicycles and associated equipment, but have also dramatically raised the sport’s profile.

Victoria Pendleton’s autobiography, Between The Lines is sixth on Amazon’s bestseller list, having spent almost three months in the top 100, and booksellers are preparing to clear their shelves to accommodate copies of Bradley Wiggins’ My Time: An Autobiography, scheduled to be published on November 8.

Yet cycling’s appeal extends well beyond the well-heeled “mamil” with cycling clubs also seeing a rise in the numbers of youngsters joining up since the Olympics.

The hope is that interest in the sport can be maintained. Thankfully the omens are good.

They look pretty decent for Halfords too.




Most read business stories

Nor Dev Con at the Kings Centre, Norwich.
Organiser Paul Grenyer from Naked Element with his team.

Picture: James Bass

Shout loud about our digital hub, say Norfolk tech experts

The digital, technology and business sectors in Norfolk need to “shout loud” to get the region’s achievements recognised in London and across the UK, said delegates at the city’s annual technology conference.

Read full story »