There has been talk about closing the recruitment gap in the automotive aftermarket for years. More recently certain training bodies and associations such as the NTDA have taking significant steps to renew efforts to recruit and upskill the tyre and aftermarket workforce. Now, however, is clear evidence that these much-discussed issues are not just theoretical. Rather, the lack of skill people in the trade is affecting the ability to service already depleted demand, which is hitting profitability even amongst some of the largest, fastest-growing and most profitable tyre-selling businesses.
Halfords Group plc (Halfords)’s third-quarter 2023 trading update for the 13 weeks to 30 December 2022 show that group revenue grew 38.3 per cent and like-for-like group sales were up 12.6 per cent compared with 2020 levels. Other headlines included the news that Halfords’s services business represents 50.3 per cent of group revenue, and B2B, which includes the Avayler system 28.2 per cent. At the same time, Halfords hailed its “strong Commercial Fleet performance”, with this part of the business growing 138 per cent year-on-year. However, the company reduced its full-year 2023 underlying profit before tax (PBT) guidance from £60 million to £50 million.
Following earlier reports on 25 November 2022, Avayler, Halfords’ B2B software arm has confirmed that ATU has selected the Avayler mobile solution to support its new mobile servicing and tyre fitting division. Avayler Mobile will initially be rolled out in Munich as part of ATU’s “Mobile Workshop” pilot project, with further plans for expansion throughout Germany.
Halfords Group has reported very strong financial figures that show group revenues amounted to £765.7 million in the first half of 2023. Of this figure, £265.2 million was generated by the Halfords Autocentres business. And what’s more, the latest projections suggest that the services part of the wider Halfords group, within which Autocentres is found, will account for the majority of revenue by 2024. Currently service-related sales represent 42.6 per cent of group revenues in the period and are expected to reach circa 48 per cent of sales on an annualised basis following the acquisition of Lodge Tyre.
Halfords has embarked on a recruitment drive for its autocentres business to meet rapidly increasing demand for vehicle servicing, MOTs, maintenance and repairs. That means Halfords is creating 1000 new automotive technician roles over the next 12 months and is prioritising attracting retirees back into the workforce as well as challenging itself to increase the number of women in automotive technician roles. The recruitment drive, which will also target disadvantaged young people, is being backed by £3.5 million of technician training and recruitment investment over next 12 months.
Halfords has appointed Simon Wherry as delivery director for the group. Simon joins Halfords Senior Leadership Team and the group’s growing IT function. According to the company, Wherry brings experience in business change delivery, underpinned by technology. He joins from management consultancy firm, CapGemini, where he was a programme director working in the defence manufacturing arena.
The suggestion that the UK tyre distribution space is ripe for consolidation is not new. But during the single week that we went to press with the latest edition at the start of October, three big tyre retail announcements were made. First Stop broke through the 150-branch barrier. Point S announced that its buying group of independent tyre retailers now numbers 300. And Halfords bought Lodge Tyres for just over £37 million.
Following the news that Halfords has bought Lodge Tyres, company representatives shared their excitement in relation to the move. ”We are excited to announce that Lodge Tyre have now joined the Halfords Group”, a social media post stated.
Halfords Group plc has made a further tyre sector acquisition with its purchase of LTC Trading Holdings Limited and subsidiary Lodge Tyre Company for £37.2 million. The addition of Lodge Tyre’s 50 garages and 248 mobile vans takes the Halfords garage services business to 656 garages, 253 consumer vans, 440 commercial vans and nine warehouses.
Halfords Group has reported strong full-year 2022 revenue growth of +19.9 per cent compared with 2020. That means total group revenues amounted to £1.369 billion in 2022, of which £368 million came from the autocentres business – an increase of 91.9 per cent compared with 2020. Group gross margin totalled £721.7 million, of which £211.0 million came from Autocentres. Much of the Autocentres-driven growth comes via the acquisitions of Iversons and the Axle Group/National Tyres last year, however life-for-like growth of 23.4 per cent shows that business continues on an organic upward trajectory as well. As a result, Halfords Autocentres gross margin is now growing six-times faster than the group’s wider retail business.
Times have been tough in the last couple of years, but if the growth of the top 25 tyre retailers in the UK is anything to go by, the nation’s leading tyre retail businesses are taking triumph from adversity. Of course, Halfords’ acquisition of National Tyres and Autocare’s parent company at the end of 2021 makes up a big part of the new UK tyre retail landscape, but it is clear that adding branches to existing networks (either by organic growth or by acquisition) is a common theme across the board.
19-year-old Cameron Palmer from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, has been crowned the 2022 Halfords BTCC Apprentice of the Year competition winner. Cameron, who is a Level Three apprentice and has been based at the Wyvern Halfords Autocentre in Derby for the past six months, fought off competition from apprentices all over the country to come out on top.
Halfords’ Tyre Safety video game, 20,000 Miles in Two Minutes, launched in October for tyre safety month, was aimed to test driver’s knowledge and raise awareness around tyre safety standards. As of today, the game has been played over 7,000 times, revealing that many drivers lacked basic safety knowledge.
Halfords Group plc has reported strong group sales up 10.4 per cent like-for-like over two years driven by “an outstanding Autocentres performance through the third quarter 2021 MOT peak.” Indeed, ‘Motoring services’ now account for 70 per cent of sales due to the combination of Autocentres growth and the recent National Tyres purchase. Not only do these movements reflect Halfords’ efforts to lead the tyre retail/motoring services market, but represent steps towards the creation of motoring retail “fusion towns.