Weather you like it or not, the sun has changed you

How has the heatwave affected our behaviour, mood and spending habits over the past week?

Taking the plunge at the Pollock Holes in Kilkee, Co Clare, was 12-year-old Alex Stewart. Photograph: Alan Place

Taking the plunge at the Pollock Holes in Kilkee, Co Clare, was 12-year-old Alex Stewart. Photograph: Alan Place


It’s hot out there, but aside from sweaty foreheads and a demand for ice tea, what does that actually mean for our day-to-day lives, from our mood in the workplace to how our pets are coping with the heat?

“Once you convince yourself you’re in holiday mode, you behave differently”
Karen Hand is a social psychologist from Trinity College’s School of Psychology and co-curator of the 2012 National Happiness Experiment. In that experiment, “we didn’t find any mood change in weather. However, we had incredibly little sunshine during the six weeks we did it. We didn’t have anything like we have now.”

Instead, Hand points to behavioural psychology that looks at people’s demeanour on holiday. “That’s more relevant to the behaviour we’re seeing at the moment. People are very much in holiday mode. And once you convince yourself you’re in holiday mode, you behave in totally different patterns and spend in different patterns.”

Interactions change, which has an impact on romantic relationships. “There is this literal reality that when there is more daylight and more heat, you want to be outside. Therefore the opportunities to meet other people become higher. For single people that’s the attraction of the beer garden and of festivals. There is opportunity to bump into people on a dating and romantic level.”

So as the opportunities to be social increase, types of social behaviour also change: “In our minds we want summer to be about casualness and informality. Good weather facilitates the impromptu whereas winter social rituals are more planned.”

“There’s a big drop on the first weekend, but then it picks up”
Tom Lawlor is the marketing manager at the Light House Cinema in Smithfield. Ireland has a huge cinema-going audience, but the box office takes a hit when outdoor activities suddenly become available.

“Every cinema in the country experiences a drop when the weather is good like this,” Lawlor says. “We’re kind of weird though, because we don’t depend on big summer films. They take a huge hit. So we’ll see a drop, but then we’ll counter that with loads of events.”

Lawlor also says that one-off weekends of heat impact cinemas more than longer periods of sunshine.

“It seems that in weather like this where there’s a prolonged spell, initially there’s a big drop on the first weekend, but then it picks back up because people like the idea of sitting in a dark, air-conditioned room. So I think that’s what we’ll see this weekend. But ultimately, I’m too hot to comment.”

“Argos are sold out of deckchairs”
Don Nugent, is the centre director Dundrum Town Centre. While shopping might not appeal to those keen so soak up the sun, items specific to the hot weather are drawing shoppers in.

“The sunny weather had been fantastic for our customers and retailers alike. The vast majority of our stores are in sale, so the sunny weather has meant that customers on the hunt for shorts and sun dresses are getting fantastic bargains.

“Popular items are most definitely the aforementioned warm weather fashion, as well as things like BBQ equipment from retailers like Argos, picnic baskets and blankets from Next and Marks & Spencer, and outdoor toys and games from Art & Hobby and Hamleys. We’re reliably informed that Argos are currently sold out of deck-chairs. Sunscreen is flying off the shelves in both Boots and McCabes Pharmacy, while our nail bars are telling us that there’s been a leap in bookings for pedicures.”

Nugent also points to the outdoor spaces at their restaurants which have seen an increase in customers taking advantage of the terraces, “so we’re seeing a lot of alfresco dining, and there have definitely been a lot of customers treating themselves to an ice cream whilst shopping.”

“Don’t walk your dog in the heat”
Emer Butler is a vet at Old Bawn Vetinary Clinic in Dublin. “A lot of people walk their dogs in this weather, so you get some cases of hyperthermia where dogs come in basically having collapsed and you have to stick them in a sink of cold water. A lot of people come in with their dog off form and that’s just the heat.

“My main advice would be for people not to walk their dogs in the heat, do it late at night or early morning. You see people walking their dogs in this weather and it’s just crazy.”

Butler says that like humans, the needs of dogs change, as they require more water and won’t need to eat as much. “Dogs left in cars for even short periods of time can overheat,” Butler says. “Cats getting trapped in sheds, as they do, will dehydrate quicker in this weather.”

And in hot weather, rabbits are also prone to illness, primarily due to the increased number of flies. “With rabbits you see fly-strike. That generally occurs if a rabbit is a little sick anyway. The flies lay their eggs in the rabbit and then the maggots eat away at the rabbit.”

Butler advises keeping a close eye on pet rabbits, making sure their living conditions are clean.

Food and Drink
“People aren’t buying much coffee. But I’ve never sold so much iced tea”
When the heat hits, restaurants and cafés have to be flexible. Out with hearty hot dishes, and in with salads.

“When it comes to what peope want to eat, we’ve put a whole load of different things on the menu this week,” says Gala Tomasso, the café manager at Ard Bia at Nimmos in Galway.

“The things we’d normally be known for, we haven’t sold half as much. We’ve had to adapt really quickly. People are buying maybe one quarter of soup that we’d normally sell.”

That also covers drinks as well as food. “People aren’t buying as much coffee either, so you have to change it to a summer drink. I’ve never sold so much iced tea. Even Irish people who wouldn’t be iced tea drinkers are really going for it.”

Takeaway orders increase as customers opt to eat outside, and outdoor seating areas get packed.

There is a preference for sweet things. “People are eating more cakes, meringues, summer tarts. I would never have guessed that.” And in the evening time, footfall increases: “People are more comfortable spending money when the sun shines. I suppose customers are so much happier, and it gets a little frivolous then.”

“There’s better atmosphere in the workplace, more camaraderie”
Patricia Murray is an occupational psychologist with the Health and Safety Authority. “There is a known correlation between people’s mood and wellbeing and performance and workability,” Murray says. “If a workplace has 50 workers, mood-wise they will be influenced by a sense of wellbeing outside of work and therefore that workplace will be more productive and have less conflicts . . .

“Although there is a lot of absenteeism, there’s better atmosphere in the workplace, more camaraderie, more collegiality, people are in better form.”

Various other behavioural changes occur when the sun comes out, “generosity increases,” Murray says. “If an office has a charity bucket where they toss a few coins in at lunchtime, that will increase. People will be more inclined to invite each other to lunch.”

With regards to the increase of absenteeism in hot weather, and in terms of people taking longer lunches or being in the office less during the day, Murray says this isn’t necessarily something bosses should be too concerned about. “You know what, it’s not a bad idea for people to take time out, to bring in a sandwich and sit outside, to take an extra half hour in the evening. There is a natural urge to be out there...

“There are opportunities to pick up on good mood, reciprocity is important, and that idea of allowing workers to finish half an hour early will actually spurn people to be more productive.”

“Rosé. Lots of rosé”
Cora-Jane Wynne is the marketing manager with O’Briens. “The sun really floats all boats, to be honest,” she says, although they are experiencing particular spikes in various categories specific to alcohol consumption in hot weather. “Craft beer to match with BBQs, rosé wine – lots of rosé. Rosé is so hard to sell at other times of the year, but when the sun comes out, everyone wants a good rosé. . . Things like prosecco, sparkling wine, things that have a low alcohol content to have with lunch. And white wines as well.”

Wynne says the initial difference in sales occurs on the first day of sunshine, “Our big story at the moment is craft beers. There’s a noticeable difference in beer on the first day, it takes a higher jump, and it’s very much about craft beers.”

Wynn says cocktail packs and Diageo’s Parrot Bay frozen cocktail packs “probably move quite well”.

The trends are similar across the country: “We’ll analyse it once the good weather finishes, but there’s nothing that goes down in weather like this, maybe some reduction in some spirit categories, but not really. People are gathering together more, having more parties, having more BBQs.”

And the traditional summer tipple cider is also doing well.

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