Halfords aims to go upmarket, reports Sunday Times

That's upmarket again, of course. Halfords launched the IBD-format Bikehut in 2006, shelving the sub-brand in 2009.
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The Sunday Times has published a long profile of Halfords and its "new" search for the upmarket customer. Back in 2006 this was the upscale mountain bike buyer; now it's the so-called 'Mamil', middle aged man in Lycra, the termed coined by Mintel's PR agency.

"With cycling soaring in popularity, [Halfords] is hunting down middle-aged men in Lycra," says the profile piece in the Sunday Times business pull-out. "But sceptics doubt it will work," adds a sub-head.

The newspaper quotes industry professionals. Clive Beacon, manager of Climb On Bikes of Hereford, said: “[Halfords] have done a very good job of making us look absolutely brilliant. We have nothing to fear.”

Ian Weatherill, co-founder and director of Hope Technology, said: “With cycling, it’s all about understanding the product. [Halfords] need a good buyer who is knowledgable about the sport. If they have [that], they will make a fortune. If they don’t, they have had it.”

Halfords' new chief executive, Matt Davies, wants to tap into the 'mamil market'. He wants to boost cycling-related sales by 20 percent and bike repairs by 25 percent.

A source close to a specialist rival told the Sunday Times: “Mamils won’t be seen dead in Halfords." Another retail expert told the newspaper: “I don’t think Halfords will ever win over the real hardcore cyclist.”

Last year that a poll by Which? magazine ranked Halfords as Britain’s worst retailer for customer service. The company plans a major staff training programme — dubbed Gear One, Gear Two and Gear Three — which, it is said, will result in the creation of product expert “gurus”, of which there will be two per branch.

Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of Wiggle, told the Sunday Times: “We’re watching what Matt Davies does carefully. He will inevitably gain some ground in what is an attractive market segment — the more serious bike enthusiast — and we are obviously investing to make sure we stay ahead of the game in that area.”

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