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Halfords to reopen stores for essential services as backlash builds to “over simplified and dumb” #BoycottHalfords petition

Motoring and cycling retailer prepares to resume trading in light of latest government coronavirus rules – company says move to help support key workers

Halfords is to reopen many of its stores later this week in line with government guidance stating that bicycle shops and garages are exempt from requirements for non-essential retail businesses to close during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, a petition calling on the company, which today outlined social distancing rules that will apply at its stores, not to resume trading to protect the health of employees has amassed more than 3,000 signatures but has received a backlash on social media.

The motoring and cycling-focused retailer currently trades from more than 450 Halfords stores, 300 Halfords Autocentres providing repair and maintenance services, plus 22 Cycle Republic stores (the chain is set to be closed down) and three standalone Tredz stores, and also trades online.

With bicycle shops and garages among the types of retail businesses that are allowed to continue to trade following the tighter restrictions introduced by the government on Monday evening, Halfords has set out how the reopened stores will operate, including a “Drive in, fit and repair” offer for  “essential motoring and cycling services” and a “Drive in pick or collect point for products.”

The company said:

We’re fundamentally changing the way our stores operate. Essentially, we won’t be inviting customers into our stores, but providing services and collection from the front of store, all within the social distancing rules.  Obviously we have also asked colleagues in the most vulnerable groups to stay at home, and can confirm we will only continue to operate this service while we believe it is safe to do so for our colleagues and communities.

Our aim is to keep the key workers and businesses that are important to the COVID-19 response moving. Our teams play a critical role in keeping Britain’s vehicles on the road and safe to drive. Halfords is much more than a network of stores and garages. We provide fleet services to the British Transport Police, Border Control Agencies, the AA and several utilities providers including British Gas, SSE and EON. We’re also helping the key workers of Britain, the growing volunteer network and those of us making essential journeys, stay on the road with MOTs and vital motoring services.

We know key workers and those of you who need to make essential journeys are choosing to cycle instead of using public transport, so as well as our free motoring check for NHS and emergency workers, we’re offering them a free Bronze Bike Service to ensure their bikes are safe, especially if they haven’t been used for a while and NHS and emergency workers get 10 per cent off any replacement tyre.

At a time when our NHS is under so much pressure we believe that it’s vital that the vehicles and bicycles on the road are as safe as possible and our teams will be there to help.  The Deputy Chief Medical Offer has also cited cycling as a good way of the nation getting exercise, supporting physical and mental health, while importantly maintaining social distancing, and we can help everyone get their daily exercise on two wheels.

Halfords CEO, Graham Stapleton, commented: “I am really proud of our colleagues and how they are supporting us in our commitment to playing our part in keeping the UK and Ireland moving.  However, we will only continue to play our role if we can ensure the health and safety of our colleagues and customers, and compliance with government policy.  That’s why we are re-shaping how our stores serve local communities across Britain.

“Halfords is much more than a network of stores and garages. Each month our trained experts carry out over 600,000 essential motoring and cycling services for our customers. Our services proposition means we keep thousands of motorists and cyclists on the move every week, from performing MOTs, servicing and tyre replacements in our garages, to fitting batteries and repairing windscreen chips.

“We also carry out adult and children cycle repairs and services in our shops as well as a mobile fleet of services.”

He added: “Halfords is uniquely positioned to keep the UK’s cars and bikes on the road and safe to drive or ride, providing the vital support to emergency workers, fleet operations, key workers, our growing community of volunteers and the general population as they travel for essential supplies, medication, exercise and, where required, to attend vital places of work.”

As we reported on our live blog earlier, a petition has been launched under the title, “Halfords putting colleagues life at risk by re-opening on Thursday 26th March. The shops are not safe” and has now amassed more than 3,000 signatures.

The author of the petition, hosted on Change.org, insists that it is “absolutely shocking and unsafe” that Halfords is classified as an essential retailer, and accuses the company of not providing hand sanitisers or safety equipment to protect staff from the spread of COVID-19; however not everyone agrees, with several people on Twitter disagreeing with the hashtag #BoycottHalfords and pointing out why it should be exempt from restrictions.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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