Halfords has said it expects to surpass profit targets after strong summer sales momentum driven by demand for cycling and staycations continued into September.

It said it now expects to post pre-tax profits above £55 million for the first half of the current financial year.

Earlier this month, the motoring and bikes firm revealed that sales jumped over the 20 weeks to August 21 as it was particularly buoyed by its strong cycling business.

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It has now said that, despite the peak cycling season coming to an end, the "positive momentum continued" over the following five weeks.

Group like-for-like sales grew by 22% over the period to September 25, with cycling like-for-like sales rising by 46%.

The London-listed company also reported that its motoring retail business saw sales growth improve to 7.5% for the five-week period.

The group's autocentre business saw revenues grow "strongly" by 18%.

Halfords said it has launched a national campaign to recruit hundreds of skilled technicians as a result of the "substantial growth" seen in its stores and autocentres.

Despite strong trading, the retailer told investors it remains cautious in its outlook for the second half of the year.

In a statement, Halfords said: "The potential impact of second waves of Covid-19 now seems more pronounced than just a few weeks ago, and the economic impact of an end to the furlough scheme and the outcome of Brexit negotiations remains very uncertain.

"We are well placed to address any headwinds we may face and capitalise on the tailwinds as they arise.

"Our balance sheet and liquidity position remain strong."

H&M to close 250 stores globally

Fashion giant H&M has said it plans to shut 250 of its stores globally next year after the pandemic moved more shoppers online.

However, the Swedish company said it has seen sales continue to recover in September, although sales remained 5% lower than the same month last year.

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It came as the retailer reported that its pre-tax profits fell to 2.37 billion Swedish krona (£210 million) for the nine months to August 31, topping analyst expectations.

Community-owned high street hailed

A community-owned stretch of shops in Dumfries has been hailed as a "unique and ambitious" example of how to save the UK's high streets.

The Midsteeple Quarter regeneration is the UK's first community-owned high street development and is one of six projects held up in a study looking at the decline of town centre shopping.

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With money raised from crowdfunding, private investment, and grants from Dumfries and Galloway Council and the Scottish Government, the Midsteeple Quarter project purchases and develops unused buildings on the high street.

The London School of Economics' Saving the High Street report praises the ongoing project for its "community engagement and conversation", and argues it is "a fundamental foundation to achieving the long-term regeneration of the high street".

Commissioned by the Power to Change trust, the study of community ownership states: "Midsteeple Quarter is a unique and ambitious community-led initiative, one which presents an opportunity to rethink the high street in order to achieve the widest potential community and town centre benefits.

"It shows that by giving the community control over the commercial and creative opportunities in the high street, the challenges presented by the dramatic change in high street retailing can be addressed."

Scott Mackay, manager of the Midsteeple Quarter project, said: "Midsteeple Quarter is an innovative initiative led by the people of Dumfries.

"It is effective because it has collaboration at its heart - collaboration between the community, public and private sectors.

"The current crisis of the high street prompted us to rethink our town centre as somewhere that genuinely meets the needs of our population and using empty buildings provides us with a unique opportunity to bring creativity into the thought process of deciding their future purpose.

"We aspire to create a new neighbourhood with a mix of uses built on principles of local prosperity and well-being."

The report, which explores how community businesses can help revive the high street's fortunes, suggests locally-owned shops bring "stability" to high streets as they are less inclined to close and pull out compared to large corporate firms.

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said: "Whilst changing retail habits may have kick-started the decline of our high streets, it is the underlying issue of fragmented property ownership and disengaged remote landlords that in the end will choke the life from them if we don't act now.

"Community ownership is vital to the revival of the high street."

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