Retailer Halfords said an "excellent" Christmas for festive sales of children's bicycles had kept its recovery firmly on track.

The car parts and bicycle group, which in November announced a return to profit growth, said like-for-like retail sales rose 5.9% over the 15 weeks to January 10 - driven by a 20% hike across its cycle ranges.

Chief executive Matt Davies said cycling was its "standout" success over the season.

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Accessories and children's bikes were in strong demand, while it also benefited from the launch of new ranges, including from cycling personalities Chris Boardman and Victoria Pendleton.

It is in the early stages of a three-year turnaround plan and has been helped by a renewed interest in cycling in recent years following the success of Britain's sporting heroes.

The rise in retail sales marked a slowdown on the 7.7% leap seen in the half-year, but shares rose 6% as Halfords maintained its turnaround momentum.

Kate Calvert, retail analyst at Investec Securities, said cycling delivered a "fabulous performance", adding that car maintenance sales were "respectable" in spite of the mild weather.

Halfords posted a 3.4% rise in like-for-like car maintenance sales, with record demand for parts fitting.

A further fall in demand for satellite navigation systems sent car enhancement sales 4% lower, while its embattled autocentres arm halted declines with a 0.1% rise.

It named Andy Randall - chief executive of skin clinic chain sk:n and a former managing director of Staples UK - as the new boss of the autocentres business, which offers car servicing and repairs and operates from around 300 sites.

He will start in March, leading an overhaul focused on improving customer service and opening new centres.

Halfords also benefited from the recent relaunch of its website as online trade grew by 13.8% over the third quarter, accounting for 12% of all retail sales.

The group, which employs around 11,000 staff across 465 stores, is ramping up its retail store refurbishment programme, with aims to refresh more than 25 stores by the end of March, up from original plans for between 10 to 15 shops.

It is also upgrading every cycling department in the next three years after 100 were overhauled in the first half.