Retailer Halfords has beaten the Hight Street gloom with new bike and in-car technology ranges helping it achieve a pick-up in sales.
Posting a 21 per cent profits rise, the Redditch firm said like-for-like sales were 2.6 per cent up in its first half and had improved since then.
The company, which floated on the stock market last year, said this proved it remained "resilient" against the challenging retail environment.
Pretax profits in the half year to September 30 rose from £ 33 . 5 million to £40.4 million, while sales increased from £322.7 million to £337.7 million. Chief executive Ian McLeod said "must have" products such as car batteries and de-icer made the company more resilient to downturns.
Halfords, which employs 440 people in Redditch, said a new device that allows drivers to play their iPod over their car stereo system should be among the popular items as it moves into the key Christmas trading period.
Mr McLeod said: "You can't walk down the street now without seeing someone with white headphones.
"When you go into the car you lose that advantage, but we've now captured that for the car. I think there will be good demand for that."
Mr McLeod said Halfords, which sells one in three bikes in the UK, had seen good sales of its new high-end Carerra cycle range and its re-launched children's bicycles.
The firm would accelerate its expansion plans in Ireland to 21 north and south of the border by next summer.
" Our growth strategy, underpinned by our service proposition, has continued to deliver positive results despite a challenging retail environment," said Mr McLeod.
"In the six weeks since September 30 Halfords' like-forlike sales performance has continued to strengthen, particularly within cycling and in-car technology, giving us confidence for the second half of our financial year."
Mr Mcleod said Halfords had kept firm control of costs, with net operating expenses before exceptional items as a percentage of turnover falling from 38.5 per cent to 37.8 per cent.
He added the company was looking forward to Christmas which was an important, albeit not critical, period for the firm.
"The Christmas period provides Halfords with the opportunity for capitalising on sales within gift related sectors such as cycles and also within new product areas such as ride-on toys and in-car technology.
"The season is therefore an important period for the company but not a critical one, with December typically accounting for approximately one and half times average monthly sales. In the six weeks since September 30 Halfords' like-for-like sales performance has continued to strengthen, particularly within cycling and in-car technology."
The company proposed to increased is interim dividend from 3.7p last year to 4p.
"They have a bit of a tailwind behind them: keeping costs down, rolling out new stores, adding new space and hopefully capitalising on more bike sales at bigger outlets," said Rensburg fund manager Leigh Himsworth.
"I don't think I'll be adding but I'm very happy to sit tight and won't be selling."