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Why Halfords' spot-on comms strategy has everything - except the cost-cutting corporate investors crave


By Andy Barr | Head Yeti

May 24, 2013 | 4 min read

Did everyone enjoy the recovery from the recession? It seemed to last all of 5 days - Monday to Friday last week.

Has Halfords done enough to get back on track?

This week the UK appeared to slump back into its old ways and in the corporate world it was bad news after bad news.

Halfords and Mothercare led the way, two brands that seemed to be on the up over the last year.

Last year Halfords was punch drunk as the Olympic legacy spread to retail and it benefitted through increased bike sales from cyclists Pendleton and Hoy winning gold.

This year though, the drink has worn off and the bike/chav-up-your-car retail giant has suffered badly and their share price dropped 16 per cent.

The chav comment is just me jesting; I, like every other dad (I am guessing), love Halfords. I could spend hours in there and they always come to the rescue in times of getting me out of a bind because of my lack of car/bike/anything manual, knowledge.

Which leads me nicely onto the fact that I was amazed that the share price dropped so much. The comms was spot on: empathy from the new CEO, commitment on investment to improving the stores... just one ingredient was missing - cost-cutting.

As anyone who has worked in PR for a listed company will tell you, analysts and shareholders love to see a cost-cutting message either just before, or on the day of, results being announced.

In my corporate days we always got the nod that we had to prepare reactive statements for a poor unsuspecting department getting the chop a few months before results day. It was the key signal that the CFO and CEO were going through the results statements on their £1m-cost away day.

So fair play to Halfords, they stuck to their guns, asked shareholders for patience (they got none initially) and plan to market and invest their way out of trouble via a three-year plan. A spot-on comms strategy that has bought them some time and a better than expected trading update in the next quarter (summer = bike sales) should get them back on track.

Tesco surprised many people this week with its announcement that the head sheds of its failed American adventure, Fresh & Easy, are getting an alleged £3m severance payment.

The payment is not a shock, the messaging was spot on (highlighting how much the directors actually lost in failed share options) but what is surprising is the fact that the grocery giant had the chance to wrap this into the earlier message about closing the brand down.

Tesco is a PR dream, they have the best teams with the best results of all of the grocery chains, and as such it is odd that they did not wrap these messages together.

This could mean there is more to the story, or they were taking a pre-emptive move because of people briefing against them. All in all, very odd and one to watch out for.

Finally, hats off to the Daily Mail Group. Another brilliant set of results and further evidence of their global dominance. Again, perfect strategy in their messaging and one that has got everyone talking; that they are looking to make up to 12 x £20m+ B2B acquisitions.

If you feel like pointing out how wrong I am, you can find me @10Yetis on The Twitter.


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