Strong demand for in-car gadgets such as DVD players and sat navs has driven profits higher at Halfords, the Redditch-based retailer said yesterday.
The car parts and bike chain said it had now become established as the UK's leading in-car technology retailer as motorists also seek devices to connect digital music players and mobile phones.
The demand saw group like-for-like sales in the 26 weeks to September 28 rise by 5.5 per cent and lifted pre-tax profits for the period by 16.4 per cent to £47.6 million.
Sales were also buoyed by revamped Apollo and Carrera bicycle ranges, while the company, which sells one in three bikes in the UK, hailed the success of its new Boardman premium cycle range.
Halfords launched the exclusive range of cycles and accessories with Olympic champion Chris Boardman in June and said it is exceeding expectations.
Sales of the range, which covers nine different models and 30 frame sizes at prices up to £1,400, have so far been "very encouraging", Halfords said.
The company added that it had enjoyed growth across all three of its divisions.
Chief executive Ian McLeod said: "Our market-leading positions in leisure, in-car technology and car maintenance, together with our high levels of service and store opening programme continue to differentiate Halfords within the retail sector.
"Trading in the seven weeks since the half-year end is in line with our expectations and, while acknowledging a challenging retail environment, we remain confident in our second half performance."
The company, which operates 433 stores selling about 11,000 product lines ranging from alloy wheels to child seats and roof boxes, opened 10 new outlets during the period.
It added that a new range of premium own-brand camping goods had proved a hit with customers after the earlier success of a standard range of tents.
And the group's website Halfords.com delivered an improved performance, with more than 2,500 new products added to the site in the past year. It has also introduced a "reserve on-line, collect in-store service".
Halfords said its two stores in the Czech Republic, with the latest opening last week, were trading in line with expectations with its first store outside of Prague set to open before Christmas.
Meanwhile, its specialist Bikehut cycling shops, recently opened in Putney, west London and Brighton, delivered a similarly solid performance,
Halfords is to open a further six Bikehut stores by the end of March, with four of those open by Christmas. It has a target of opening a total of 50 Bikehut stores overall.
However, shares in the company fell by four per cent at one stage yesterday as it also indicated that sales of children's bikes face competition from products such as games consoles while rising interest rates may also curb consumer spending.
Ramona Tipnis, analyst at Numis Securities, said the results revealed "continued strength in the business".
She noted: "This is one of the more robust retailers with a defensive business that is not dependent on Christmas. Encouragingly, all three divisions delivered growth and continue to perform in line with exceptions."
Numis is forecasting annual pre-tax profits of £90.1 million, up from £83.5 million last year. Halfords recommended a 9.2 per cent rise in its interim dividend to 4.75p.
Mr McLeod dismissed City speculation that Halfords could face a bid from Autobacs, Japan's biggest car accessories builder, which already owns 5.2 per cent of the business.
He said the two organisations worked together on sourcing and learning and had a "good relationship". He added: "They took a five per cent stake in Halfords about two-anda-half years go, which is the Japanese way, and have not increased it since."