Stephen Jardine: Sunshine helps stores weather Brexit storm

Sales of fizzy drinks and barbecue staples are booming, writes Stephen Jardine

Barbecue meats are among the food and drink products that boom during hot temperatures. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Phew, what a scorcher. For the past week Scotland has been basking in the highest temperatures of the summer. At Prestwick the mercury soared to 29C on Tuesday, with Glasgow baking at 27C and Edinburgh not far behind on 24C.

Following hard on the heels of the hottest ever June, it marks a welcome change from the usual Scottish summer but more than that, the sunshine delivers a boost to the food and drink economy in these difficult post-Brexit days.

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This month, sales of budget charcoal barbecues are up a whopping 90 per cent against last year at one major retailer. With the equipment sorted, the food comes next and butchers, fishmongers and supermarkets all report dramatic rises in sales of barbecue food.

And that’s not all, with Scottish strawberries and raspberries just reaching their peak, the worry is that wet weather will dampen demand for a product that has to be picked and sold and can’t be delayed. In previous years, a disappointing summer has led to furious price cutting and promotion to help shift stocks. In sharp contrast, Sainsbury’s have just reported their second busiest week ever for berry sales across the UK, giving hope to Scottish growers.

The dairy industry is also receiving a welcome boost with sales of cream to go with the berries booming. Last week a major supermarket retailer reported ice cream and ice lolly sales were up more than 900 per cent compared to last year.

Drink sales also traditionally flourish when the weather warms up with beer and cider predicted to soar by more than 50 per cent across the country.

To keep drinks cool, the humble ice cube is flying out of the freezer cabinet, with Asda reporting demand up 200 per cent on the same time last week.

Sometimes, companies are caught out. Sainsbury’s had to curtail a cut-price Prosecco promotion when stocks ran out due to thirsty summer drinkers stocking up on fizz in the sunshine.

But what is most surprising is the unerring accuracy of major retailers when it comes to predicting and meeting weather-driven demand. While the rest of us peer out of the window hoping for blue skies, how can they so comfortably predict the impact the weather will have on sales and ensure they have the stocks of lollies and lettuces we want when the sun shines?

The answer lies with the remarkable consumer insight and spend data that has been accumulated in recent years by the retailing giants. For instance, they know that as soon as temperatures go over 18 degrees in the UK, fizzy drink sales will increase by more or less 22 per cent. That same research applies to salads, barbecue meats and burger rolls, and supply will immediately be tweaked to meet demand.

It might not eradicate the economic uncertainty of leaving the European Union, but the summer sunshine has at least been a welcome boost to the food and drink industry when it needed it most. This weekend looks like a return to less settled conditions but the sector will hope, like the rest of us, that blue skies will return soon.