Midland retailer Halfords is set to post a pre-tax profit of up to £116 million – ahead of forecasts – after being boosted by demand for car parts during recent bad weather.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the Redditch-based group also announced it would close its loss-making shops in central Europe.

The car parts to bicycles chain said pre-tax profits were on course to be above analysts’ average forecast of £112.7 million.

Sales at shops in the UK and Ireland open at least a year were up 0.8 percent in the 11 weeks ended March 19, with a 13 percent jump in sales of car maintenance products and services offsetting a weaker performance in bicycles and leisure sales.

Halfords, which last month bought Midland car servicing firm Nationwide Autocentres, also said it would close its seven loss-making stores in the Czech Republic and Poland to focus on its growth opportunities at home.

The stores made an operating loss of £2.8 million over the last 12 months, the group said, adding the closure would lead to an exceptional charge of £7.9 million.

“The continuing recession (in central Europe) is severely limiting the property opportunity to move the operation to a viable scale,” chief executive David Wild explained.

“While an international strategy clearly represents an opportunity for future growth, the board has decided that management and financial resource is better devoted, at the present time, to the lower-risk return opportunities in our core market.”