With 40C predicted as part of the UK’s first ever extreme heat warning, people are doing whatever it takes to keep cool.
As usual, this means rushing out to buy electric fans and paddling pools to survive soaring temperatures at home, and for those who dare to brave the heat, spending money on ice creams and meals out.
At Asda, sales of electric fans in the week to 15 July were up 1,300% on the previous week, while folding chairs and sunbeds were up 400%.
There was a 1,000% rise in paddling pool purchases and a 300% increase in sales of sun cream and after sun lotion.
Last week Currys sold a record 17,000 electric fans, and sales of air conditioning units from Argos were up 2,240%.
Ice cream sales like ‘depths of August’
In seaside areas such as Cornwall, ice cream sales have gone “crazy”, Amy Cartmel, of Callestick Farm Cornish Ice Cream in Truro, tells Sky News.
“Last week it was crazy with pre-rush orders in preparation for the heat this week,” she says.
“This is a pre-summer holiday rush for us, something we wouldn’t usually see until the depths of August during the school holidays.
“But it’s good preparation, so we can adapt for when it gets even busier when the schools are off next month.”
Ms Cartmel added that the ice cream parlour, which also stocks beach kiosks and restaurants throughout Cornwall, hasn’t experienced a dip in demand with the cost of living crisis.
“We haven’t seen a difference in spending,” she said.
“People seem to be making smaller purchases that make them happy and take their minds off the current situation – they see ice cream as part of a cheap day out.”
Pubs on the water trading best
When it comes to how pubs are faring, it all comes down to location, Peter Borg Neal, founder and chief executive of the chain Oakman Inns, said.
“Trading has been doing relatively well, but there’s a big dichotomy of pubs by a river and pubs in town centres,” he said.
“Rural pubs are doing well across the board, but people don’t want to go to town centres in this heat. Anything near water is doing well.”
And in terms of what they’re selling, he adds: “We’re not getting a lot of orders for roast dinners, it’s more salads.”
So far he has had no issues of staff getting to work and coping in the heat, but during the extreme heat period, that could change.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned smaller firms are more likely to suffer from a dip in footfall with customers staying at home.
“They’re adapting fast – by doing all they can to make premises more comfortable for staff and customers,” national chair Martin McTague said.
“We’ve heard from outdoor training facilities postponing lessons, zoos temporarily closing to protect welfare, cafes implementing cold menus and lots of high street firms providing free water for customers and pets.”
The FSB said the government could be doing more by lowering business rates for companies that invest in air conditioning.
High street still suffering
And while sales of burgers and sausages are having their usual summer surge, ultimately the heat wave isn’t much help for struggling retailers.
Natalie Berg, an independent retail analyst, said: “This heatwave is different, with the timing of the cost of living crisis.
“Fans and paddling pools may be flying off the shelves, but generally speaking this is bad news for the High Street.
“The heat does stimulate demand to some extent for things like barbecues and gardening tools, but no one wants to go to the High Street in this heat, so it will temporarily scupper the growth we’ve been seeing in in-person sales.”
Asked what products will have the biggest demand, she said: “It’s really about survival, so getting through the heat and keeping cool, as opposed to people throwing summer parties and updating their summer wardrobes.
“Dyson fans are pretty much sold out online, so that suggests that people who have been sitting on savings during COVID and can afford it are still making those impulse purchases.”
Alongside the drop in foot fall on the High Street, rail companies are likely to suffer as high temperatures force operators to delay and cancel journeys to avoid tracks buckling in the heat.
Indoor leisure venues such as cinemas and theatres also may see a fall in demand, despite being air conditioned, with Showcase cinemas offering red-headed customers free tickets this week – as they are traditionally more sensitive to the heat.