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Gloucestershire Business News

Halfords U-turn from market town

Bike and autoparts supplier Halfords is to close a Gloucestershire outlet which it has run since 2008.

According to Dransfield Properties, who own the retail unit at Stroud's Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Merrywalks, the firm will exit the site this November.

Confirming the closure, Halford's said staff had been informed and it was "working hard to support all of those affected".

Halfords, who have dominated their sector in motoring services, has been in business for 125 years and its reversal from Stroud follows an announcement early this year that stores would be shuttered due to a nationwide skills shortage and decline in bicycle sales. The revelation led to a 20% drop in its share price.

Graham Stapleton, Chief executive, said: "We can't get enough qualified technicians into our garages to meet demand. There are parallel issues in many other parts of the economy where large skill gaps are opening up."

Halford's Merrywalks site, which is beneath the shopping centre's multistorey carpark and adjacent to the town's Vue cinema, was previously located in King Street.

In a statement confirming the exit, Dransfield Properties said it was currently in talks with three different retailers and that once an occupier had been selected the change would lead to a "net increase" in local employment.

Halfords' Gloucestershire presence continues with larger repair and MOT autocentres in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cirencester, as well as stores in Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Gloucester.

But in the wake of the town losing its Wilko outlet in the same shopping centre, the withdrawal from Stroud has come as a shock. Stroud also lost Karparts, another auto supplies and accessories shop, which closed in nearby Westward Road, Cainscross, in October 2022 when the owner retired.

Online, customers have reacted with dismay to Halford's news, with many blaming the rise of internet sales - including the efficiency of Halford's own e-commerce offer.

Cassie Burford asked: "Who's going to fit my bulbs for me now? Or fit a new battery?"

Ryan Ponting added: "Wilko, now Halfords, let me guess, coffee shops and charity shops will fill the spots."

In February this year, Halfords announced plans to close stores, with four stores in Dagenham (Essex), March (Cambridgeshire) and Irvine and Largs (in North Ayrshire) in the initial firing line.

In 2020, the Investors Chronicle reported that Halfords, on the back of a boom from cycling, was training technicians to prepare for an anticipated 11m electric vehicles that will be on our roads by 2030.

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