Halfords has launched a campaign to fill 1,000 technician jobs over the next 12 months by targeting more female and retired recruits as the UK’s tight labor market pushes employers to think up new hiring strategies.
Announcing a halving of interim profits as customers cut discretionary spending amid the cost of living crisis, the auto and bike retailer warned that its full-year results would fall short of expectations.
However, he said inflationary pressures had also boosted the membership of his car loyalty club by drivers keen to cover the rising cost of running a car.
Its managing director, Graham Stapleton, said: “To help meet this demand, we are today launching a recruitment campaign to fill 1,000 new automotive technician positions over the next 12 months. In particular, we hope to attract retirees to the job market, as well as increase the number of women in technical positions.
Industries across the UK are facing a labor shortage, with the unemployment rate at its lowest level since 1974 in October, large numbers of people leaving the workforce due to early retirement and long-term illness, as well as the impact of falling levels of migration after Britain left the EU.
In its interim results, Halfords, the UK’s largest car services provider, with more than 600 garages and nearly 700 vans, reported underlying pre-tax profits of £29million for the six months to on September 30, up from £57.9m a year ago.
Revenue rose 10.2% to £765.7m in the first half, driven mainly by the Autocentres part of the business which deals with vehicle maintenance and technical checks. However, its like-for-like retail sales were down 6% year-over-year as consumers rein in their spending on bikes.
Halfords said that since the first half of the year, there was “resilient trading in the more needs-based categories, but there was some easing in the more discretionary areas.”
He added: “It remains difficult to predict consumer confidence for the remainder of 2022-23, but we don’t expect the challenges facing businesses to dissipate soon.”
The group now expects underlying pre-tax profits for the full year to be at the lower end of its previous forecast of between £65m and £75m.
Matt Britzman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Halfords’ decision to focus on building its more reliable service revenue stream could not have come soon enough as consumers grapple with pressure from costs move away from more discretionary spending.
“This trend is particularly visible within the once booming cycling division of Halfords, where sales are returning to earth following the pandemic boom.”