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How the British summer impacted leisure firms Ryanair and Halfords

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With the British summer at an end and autumn underway, companies across the UK will be analysing their strategies in the run up to events like the Rugby World Cup, Halloween and, dare we say, Christmas.

In fact, Real Business has already spoken to a number of firms about how they plan to tackle the upcoming sporting event, which is set to generate some £2.2bn for the UK’s economy.

HotelTonight’s COO Jared Simon told us that bookings will pick up naturally, while Gett CEO Remo Gerber recommended businesses think of niche ideas and not just the mainstream movements.

Elsewhere, the arrival of summer brought with it some fortune for businesses. The Cowlick Creamery was able to use the heatwave in July as a way to publicise its then-new ice cream line for dogs, while the start of the holidays marked a sales increase for the UK’s shopping centres.

But for all of the hopes that the British summertime will result in a heatwave between June and August, the simple matter is that we’ll be lucky for three days of consistent heat.

While there were hints it was the hottest season of the year, the wet weather endured over the 29-31 August bank holiday weekend was a fitting way to bring in autumn. The damp three days had a negative impact on sales for the high street, though it worked well for retail parks and shopping centres as consumers took shelter at drier locations for a spot of retail therapy.

Additionally, restaurant sales surged as Brits sought out indoor dining ahead of other activities like barbecues.

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The season was bad news for Halfords, however. The outdoor leisure specialist faced an uphill struggle during the eight-week period across July and August as cycling sales fell by 11 per cent and failed to meet expectations, which it attributed to the “poor weather”.

By comparison, its car-related sales remained solid – presumably as customers wanted to keep dry inside a vehicle rather than sodden on a bike.

Jill McDonald, Halfords CEO and former McDonald’s UK head, said: “In my first three months at Halfords I have reviewed all aspects of the group and it is clear to me that Halfords is a strong business with a well-balanced portfolio of product and service categories, talented colleagues and considerable growth potential.

“This recent weakness in our cycling sales is disappointing, but it comes after two years of very strong growth in the category and has been partly offset by strong growth in both car maintenance and car enhancement sales, which is a testament to the balanced nature of the business.

“Looking ahead, we remain confident in the long-term growth opportunities in cycling and I will talk more about our plans for cycling and across the broader group at our interim results in November.”

While Halfords was wrong-footed by the gloomy weather, leisure airline Ryanair was able to strike gold in August as Brits looked to escape the UK for warmer climes.

It revealed that its business in the month had grown by ten per cent year on year, while rolling annual traffic to August was up by 15 per cent to 96.3m customers.

“Ryanair’s August traffic grew by 10% to 10.4m customers, while our load factor jumped 2% points to 95%,” said Ryanair CMO Kenny Jacobs.

“These record monthly numbers and load factors are due to our lower fares, our stronger forward bookings and the continuing success of our “Always Getting Better” customer experience programme, which continues to deliver stronger than expected traffic and load factors on our biggest ever summer schedule.”

The firm added that more service improvements would land in the coming months with its programme, including car hire, a new website and app, updated cabin interiors and uniforms, as well as in-flight menus.

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