Stephen Jardine: Economy enjoys a day in the sun

Barbecues: Big hitters in the sunshine. Picture: Contributed
Barbecues: Big hitters in the sunshine. Picture: Contributed
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THE other day I made an ice lolly. I probably haven’t done that since I was about ten-years old but after a sweltering day out and about, I had a craving for the sweet juice and icy relief.

It really hit the spot and my freezer now boasts an impressive array of ice cold treats.

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago we were still drying out from the total washout that was Taste of Edinburgh at The Meadows. The organisers lost a fortune when the three-day food festival was cancelled after just one day, due to torrential rain and flooding on site.

As a result, the event hasn’t been staged here this year, and what happens? Naturally, we have the best summer in years.

From outdoor events to what we eat, there is no doubt the sun changes everything. This is normally the time when barbecues are reduced to half price and you look at the garden furniture nestling under a layer of mildew and wonder why you bothered.

This year the charcoal is burning night after night. Sainsbury’s say they sold 200,000 bags of charcoal last week and that is backed up by Marks and Spencer who shifted over two million sausages in the same period.

Just to prove I’m not the only big kid on the block, the high street giant also reported ice lolly sales up 300 per cent on the same period last year.

All of this begs the tantalising question: could the heatwave help us barbecue our way out of economic recession?

What’s not in doubt is the feel-good factor of a red-hot summer. Outdoor eating spaces are packed with people enjoying the good weather, and food and drink is an integral part of that experience. On top of that, the average spend per head at a barbecue is almost £3 more than the typical evening meal.

All the evidence suggests lots of businesses are benefitting from the weather. Waitrose report ice cream sales up over 100 per cent and manufacturers are working round the clock and have hired extra staff to boost supplies.

Likewise, Scottish soft fruit supplier Scotty Brand is having a bumper year with sales of strawberries three times what they were this time last year. That may be the Andy Murray factor or it may increased demand due to the good weather, but either way it’s great news for the growers.

Of course every upside has a downside. They can push the Vichysoisse and Pea and Mint as much as they like but soup sales must have taken a dip in recent weeks and I suspect it won’t be too hard to get a seat in your local Indian restaurant this weekend. But the prospects for everyone else continue to look good. And if the green shoots of economic recovery really do grow and blossom, it’s likely that one contributory factor will have been the feel-good sunshine summer of 2013.