The 'Wiggo effect' was not enough to halt a 23 per cent fal in half year profits at Midland retail giant Halfords.

The ar parts and bicycle reported interim underlying profits of £41.9 million, down from £54.7 million a year earlier, after retail sales fell 1.9% to £393 million in its half year to September 28.

But Redditch firm Halfords said the so-called "Wiggo effect" helped improve trade after a torrid first quarter, when like-for-like sales plunged 7.5%.

The group saw second quarter comparable retail sales rise 4.6% thanks to a surge in cycling sales and repairs after the British success in the Tour de France and Olympics from the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Lizzie Armitstead.

Chairman Dennis Millard said Halfords had been able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the "summer of sport".

The group added that while it was cautious about pressures on consumers in the run up to Christmas, it remains on track to make a pre-tax profit of up to £70 million this year.

Mr Millard did not give any guidance on trading since September, but said the consumer environment was challenging.

Shares in Halfords fell 4% after the results and analysts at Seymour Pierce said the retailer's new chief executive had "much to do".

Former Pets at Home boss Matt Davies joined as chief executive last month after David Wild stepped down from the top job in July after the first quarter slide in sales.

But today's results showed a more robust performance elsewhere in the first half, with Halfords Autocentres, which provides MOT and car servicing, seeing like-for-like sales lift 10.8% after a 12.4% leap in the second quarter - the strongest performance since Halfords acquired the business in February 2010

Freddie George, retail research analyst at Seymour Pierce, said he believed a "back-to-basics" approach was needed by Halfords.

He said the chain was not suffering from structural issues, but from "a tired offer and operational inefficiencies".