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Halfords helped by 'Wiggins effect' as easyJet soars

TWO survivors of the UK retail scene – Halfords and Mothercare – will reveal their strategies for the Christmas season in updates this week.

EasyJet profits are expected take off tomorrow after a buoyant year was rounded off by a last-minute rush for holidays following the Olympic Games.

The carrier upped its profit guidance in October as London 2012 proved to be far better than feared for the sector.

Ryanair has also upped its full-year profit guidance and said there had been a notable improvement in the market from the end of July and August, which continued into November. Numis Securities analysts are pencilling in profits at the top end of easyJet's range.

They said the launch of allocated seating across flights should also support profits in future years – possibly adding around 10% to earnings.

The airline admitted fuel costs were set to rise by between £30 million and £40m – on top of the £230m seen in the year to September 30.

Halfords will insist the so-called "Wiggins effect" is keeping the business on track on Wednesday when it unveils a slide in half-year profits.

The chain previously said it expects pre-tax profits for the 26 weeks to September 30 to be £40m to £42m, down around 20% on the same period last year. However, the profits are still above what City analysts had expected earlier this year when the company, which has 467 stores, was struggling.

The rebound was driven by a 14.7% surge in cycling sales, which the business put down to better weather and success in the Tour de France and Olympics from the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy.

Mothercare investors will find out on Thursday if the loss-making retailer has weathered a squeeze in consumer spending. Experts predict half-year losses will narrow to £3m after its Jools Oliver and value ranges helped it return to sales growth.

Boss Simon Calver joined in April amid a dismal £103m loss, pledging to be ruthless on costs.

The City will hear how plans to cut store numbers from 311 to 200 by 2015 in a bid to save £13m a year are going. The estate will comprise 95 out-of-town sites and 105 high street locations.

Majestic Wine's half-year results are likely to reflect the impact of the washout summer weather when it reports figures.

While the group is expected to have seen sales boosted by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and European Championships, analysts believe overall summer trade will have been hit by the record UK rainfall.

Majestic, which has 181 stores in the UK, toasted a 15% rise in annual profits after sales rose 2.6% in the year to April 2.

However, like-for-like sales slowed to 0.6% in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year – reflecting comparisons with the Royal Wedding in 2011 – and trading is likely to remain difficult.

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