British cycle seller to expand as commuters ditch cars

November 23rd, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 23 (IANS) Britain’s leading bicycle seller is planning a rapid expansion of outlets, hoping to attract commuters hit by high petrol prices and an economic slowdown.Halfords, which has a chain of bicycle and car accessories stores across Britain, said it hoped to open 50 stores devoted entirely to cycles.

While car sales have collapsed across rich nations, the number of commuters cycling to work has increased by 3.3 million in Britain since the start of the credit crunch, according to a recent survey by Sainsbury’s Home Insurance.

Cycling is a popular mode of transport in many parts of Britain, particularly in cities, and some 3.5 million bikes were sold in the country last year, 750,000 of them fold-away bikes that can be collapsed and carried in trains and buses.

Halfords also aims to grab the opportunity by piloting eight stand-alone stores, trading under the names Cycle Republic and Bikehut, that will target the “premium cycle” market catering for middle-class consumers who cycle to work or for leisure.

David Wild, the chief executive of Halfords, said that there was “potential for at least 50 stand-alone cycle stores across the country”.

The group employs more than 10,500 staff and sells over 10,000 different product lines, ranging from car parts and cycles through to the latest in-car technology, alloy wheels, child seats, roof boxes and outdoor leisure and camping equipment.

Britain’s national cyclists’ association, CTC, predicts that the downturn is set to increase the number of miles cycled in Britain by 40 percent, based on data after the oil price rises and recessions of the 1970s.

Research also suggests 42 percent of commuters in Britain would consider using a bicycle if they lived close enough to their workplace.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s Home Insurance, which carried out the study, said this week: “As a result of the current economic climate, many people are looking to save money by using bicycles to get to work as opposed to cars or public transport.

“As well as saving money there is of course an added benefit to their personal fitness and the environment.”

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