Old bike 2
Sadly, we didn’t come across any bikes or penny farthings

With 124 years behind us, Halfords has got a wealth of history to look back on. A few of us recently took a trip down to the (very creepy) basement here at the Support Centre, and were greeted with boxes upon boxes of old catalogues, photos of long-retired colleagues, and even thick, leather-bound ledgers dating back to the turn of last century.

There was so much stuff that you could spend a good month down there going through everything; laughing at the retro hairstyles, gasping in amazement at the prices, and getting sentimental over the fact that a 1954 handbook recorded every employee’s marriage.

So we thought we’d take you on a trip down memory lane, starting with Halfords in the early days.

First head office
Our first head office, in Birmingham

Halfords was founded by Frederick W. Rushbrooke in 1892. The following year, Fred set up the business with the incredibly snappy name “Hardware Merchants and Manufacturers’ Agents – Importers and Exporters the World Over“. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!

When Halfords first opened its doors, its way of doing business was revolutionary for the time. Instead of having everything unsightly tucked away out back, the company proudly displayed all of its wares on the shop floor, alongside clear prices.

1920s store
A store in the 1920s

By 1906, Halfords moved from being a wholesale company and turned its nine branches into specialist retail shops. It also changed its name to The Halford Cycle Company after Halford Street in Leicester.

Throughout the next fifteen years the company went from strength to strength and started paying attention to cars and the new-fangled craze for motorcycles and ‘the wireless’.

Sadly WWII saw twelve branches destroyed, one hundred and six damaged, and over a thousand employees left the company to go to war. Even though the central warehouse was in Birmingham, it miraculously survived the devastating attacks the city sustained. But in the era of Keep Calm and Carry On, Halfords did so, opening more stores and a number of head offices as each outgrew capacity.

Photo 28-07-2016, 12 57 34
Our brand spanking new head office in the ’70s.

Since then, we’ve opened hundreds of more stores in both the UK and ROI, made a foray into the Netherlands, started Autocentres, and become the number 1 destination for motoring and cycling products. We’ve come a long way from selling cycling berets, fluffy car seat covers, and cassette players, that’s for sure!

Chatham

Check back in a few weeks’ time for another nostalgic look back at our history.

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