Southern Europeans splash out on air-con as heatwave drags on
By Corina Pons and Elisa Anzolin
MADRID/MILAN (Reuters) – As Southern Europe battles extreme heat with no end in sight, people have rushed out to buy fans and even invest in air-conditioning to keep cool.
In-built air-conditioning in homes is much less widespread in Europe than in the United States, making people reliant on more traditional ways of coping in the heat, like closing shutters and resting in the middle of the day.
But data shows Italians and Spaniards are increasingly opting for more effective cooling solutions as summers get hotter.
Italian consumer electronics retailer Unieuro, which has more than 500 shops across the country, said sales of air-conditioning products doubled in the week to July 21 compared to the same week last year.
El Corte Inglés, one of Spain’s largest department store chains, said that by mid-July it had already sold 15% more units than it did last year by the end of August.
“I bought a portable air conditioner last week because my family was desperate,” Angela Lonardo said as she browsed in a Leroy Merlin store in downtown Madrid on Friday. Having spent 320 euros ($355) on a unit for her living room, she was looking for a second air conditioner to put in the bedroom.
“We do not want to spend another hot summer suffering in the nights.”
A heat wave has hit southern Europe during the peak summer tourist season, breaking records – including in Rome – and bringing warnings about an increased risk of deaths. Spain is expected to endure higher-than-average temperatures this summer, with two heatwaves already baking the country in June and July.
The surge in electricity prices last year may have deterred people from investing in fixed air conditioning units, but renewed heatwaves this summer are driving consumers to consider installing them, according to OCU, a consumer organisation in Spain.
The average number of hours air-conditioning was used jumped by 26.5% in Seville in the month to July 15 compared to the same period last year, according to data from Sensibo, which sells devices to help people reduce their energy usage from air-con.
Many were opting for ventilation that’s easier to install: a ceiling fan priced at 139.95 euros was among the top ten bestselling items in the homeware category on the Amazon Spain website, while in Italy a 319-euro mobile air-conditioning unit was 17th top seller in the category.
Businesses, too, are investing in air-conditioning. Amazon Business, where companies can order supplies, saw more than a 20% increase in portable air-conditioning unit sales across Spain, Italy, and France this month compared to July last year.
Smaller devices, like hand-held fans and fans worn around the neck, were also selling in their thousands.
Four-legged friends were not forgotten: El Corte Inglés said cooling mats for dogs and cats were among the best-selling items in stores this month.
($1 = 0.8991 euros)
(Reporting by Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Corina Rodriguez in Madrid, Helen Reid in London; Editing by Sharon Singleton)