Halfords Group plc announced a strong trading update on 8 September, with the 20-week figures once again illustrating the rapid growth of the company’s automotive businesses such as Halfords Autocentres and its more recently-acquired tyre wholesale and truck tyre operations.
On Friday 3 September Halfords unveiled its new retail concept at its recently refurbished Colchester branch. The new concept seeks to integrate the differing parts of the Halfords portfolio (including autocentres and mobile experts) and was hailed by CEO Graham Stapleton as “the future of Halfords”. As well as the Colchester pilot, the new concept will be trialled in two other locations.
Following Halfords’ recent acquisitions of Universal Tyres and McConnechy’s before that, many have speculated regarding what the future holds for Lodge Tyres. Rumours aside, the short story is that Lodge Tyres had a good 2020 despite the obvious Covid-19-related adversity and is set for further growth in 2021. Tyres & Accessories met with Lodge Tyres managing director Andy Christmas and commercial director Martin O’Brien in order to get the latest details straight from Lodge Tyres’ management.
Halfords has entered the B2B software market by making American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) the first customer of Halfords’ Avayler proprietary software which streamlines “service delivery for companies that operate in multiple locations.” According to Halfords, the Avayler platform will underpin ATD’s operations, supplying tyres to 80,000 garages across the US. ATD will also be the exclusive provider of the Avayler Mobile platform to the North American automotive market. ATD is one of the largest independent suppliers of tyres in the US replacement market and the part owner of Tirebuyer.com (which was established by blackcircles.com founder Mike Welch). No price details associated with the sale of the Avayler software system to ATD have yet been disclosed.
The Halfords Group reported a strong set of full-year 2021 that saw the company generate total sales of 1,292.5 million in 2021, up 13.1 per cent compared with the 2020 financial year (2020: 1,155.1 million). The financial report, which was published on 17 June 2021, shows that by all measures pre-tax profits skyrocketed. Indeed, Halfords Group reported profit before tax after the impact of IFRS 16 of £64.5 million, which amounts to a headline-grabbing increase of 184.1 per cent compared with the previous year.
Halfords Autocentres accounted for an increasing proportion of the group’s overall sales figures, reporting 2021 sales of £252.5 million, up 31.6 per cent compared with 2020’s £194.1 million.
We’ve all seen the meme. Mechanic hourly rate: Standard – £100; £175 if you watch; and £200 if you worked on it first! Nevertheless, with 40 per cent of people spending more time in their garage during lockdown than before, Halfords is running a “best home garage” competition. The prize? £5000 cash and a “Halfords Ultimate Garage Bundle”.
Halfords Autocentres has joined the National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA), bringing all of its 358 branches into the NTDA network. The NTDA has also confirmed that in line with the ‘Rules of the Association’, Halfords Autocentres will also have two representatives joining the NTDA’s executive council, the governing body of the association.
With a pandemic, an MOT extension and three lockdowns to contend with, describing the last year as “difficult” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, tyre retailers have demonstrated that they are not only key workers essential to keeping the British Isles rolling, but also versatile and resilient businesspeople during the last 12 months. A quick look at the top 25 UK tyre retail chains 2021 table reveals that it has been a more eventful year than normal in terms of branch openings and closings, but overall the clear message is one of consolidation. As a result, the top 25 UK tyre retail chains wield more power than ever. Specifically, the top 25 now run 2528 branches between them. When our coverage of this area began back at the end of the 2008/2009 tax year, the figure was 1978. During the interim, the rough estimate for the total number of tyre retailers national has stayed stable at around 10,000 specialists (that number is roughly double that if you include general garages). This means the top 25 occupy roughly 25 per cent of the number of branches, up 6 percentage points since 2009.
Halfords’ recent acquisition of Universal Tyres follows the acquisition of McConnechy’s Tyre Service Ltd for £8.5 million and Tyres on the Drive for £746,000 back in November 2019. The combination of the McConnechy’s and Universal purchases means Halfords now owns two of the three founding firms of ULM Services Ltd, a fleet servicing business that Universal establishing in partnership with McConnechy’s and Lodge tyres back in 2017. At the same time, Universal runs its own tyre wholesale business. So, what does the latest acquisition mean for the Universal Tyre Wholesale operation? And how was McConnechy’s commercial business folded into Halfords? For that matter, how will the businesses be integrated in general? And what does this all mean for ULM?
McConechys Tyre Service, which was bought by Halfords last year, is migrating its website to the Halfords.com portal. At the same time as making the website migration announcement, company representatives revealed: “All of the [49 form McConechy’s] garages have been trained to provide the same services that would be expected at a Halfords Autocentre, including both on demand and bookable services.
Halfords Autocentres has launched a car collection and delivery service. Running from 215 of its garages across the UK, the service is available alongside service or MOT with a service bookings. The service means staff at the Autocentre will collect the car from your home and return it when work has been completed. The company is charging £19.99 for the service.
More than 4,000 NHS staff and emergency workers have gone to Halfords for free car and bike checks since the retailer started offering them in late March. The initiative was launched to help those carrying out essential work on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis get to and from work safely.
At the moment it is easy to get side-tracked by all the talk of the coronavirus. But, while it is clearly an important subject, the tyre business has a century or more of pre-history, has a present and has a future. With this in mind, May’s edition of Tyres & Accessories continues in line with the last eight years of research by counting and ranking the nation’s largest tyre retail chains.
The methodology is simple, we contact companies, consult publicly available sources and use third-party data where necessary in order to triangulate our tyre retail landscape. Of course, the present circumstances may look significantly different due to the nations’ current lockdown status (see “Which Garages are Open During Lockdown“). However, the shape of the tyre retail business before the lockdown will surely help the retail trade strategize for its ongoing future after lockdown, making this data as actionable as ever.
Halfords is offering free MOTs at Halfords Autocentres with every interim, full or major service booked, to ensure “vehicles that still need to be on the road are safe to drive during this challenging period”, according to the company.
The ongoing effects of import tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and structural changes in the distribution chain have all affected the tyre business this year. As well as featuring the latest motorsport news and covering market developments in our regular features, this month’s Tyres & Accessories focuses on a number of key examples of changes in the marketplace in our Review of the Year feature. But one trend stands out above the others – virtualization. In short, increasing moves towards electric and autonomous vehicles (complete with their inherent sensorisation tendencies), coupled with changes in vehicle (and tyre) ownership models such as MaaS (Mobility as a Service) are driving changes in the tyre market that are resulting in the virtualizing of parts of the distribution chain.