We are told we are in a recession. We are told that the building industry is frozen to the point where it needs a boost from a change in planning laws. We are told that people are holding on to whatever money they have and that they have no spare funds to splash out on luxury goods.
I’m not sure how much of that is true. We have also been told that our “summer of sport” kept people away from the shops yet, as I write this, I have just heard that John Lewis has posted a 60 per cent rise in profits.
However, if only half of this is true – coupled with one of the worst summers any of us can remember – then, by all accounts, air-conditioning sales should be circling the drain. But they are not.
Without going into detail, the splits sector seems to be holding up while some other sectors are showing some signs of growth.
So why is this? I suspect there are two interconnected issues here.
The first is that air-conditioning is no longer considered to be a “luxury item” that we can easily do without.
We have obviously not yet reached the same levels as southern Europe or certain parts of the US where domestic comfort cooling is the norm, but no serious developer would dream of building or refurbishing an office block without including air-conditioning.
This is the result of a number of factors, including the right marketing, the final realisation that buildings can be efficiently heated by air-conditioning, knowing the environmental and financial benefits of using heat pumps over conventional options, and technical advances that have helped designers.
My personal view is that we all owe a debt of gratitude to car air-conditioning. It is now ubiquitous – even some of the smallest compacts have it as standard these days.
On some of the hot days we have had in recent years, the contrast between leaving a nice cool car and entering an oppressively stuffy office must surely have helped increase the pressure for workplace air-conditioning.
The second point is that I believe we have finally broken the age-old link between the summer weather and air-conditioning sales. There was a time when contractors and distributors would stock up in May and pray for hot weather. If it came, their families would probably not see them again until October.
Then the business would hopefully tick over with some ongoing building projects until the following summer, when the cycle could start again.
That is – quite obviously from the figures – no longer the case. After many years of travelling in this direction, we have finally become a 365-day-a-year industry.
So, here’s to a good autumn – and an even better winter.
Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of FG Eurofred, the face of Fujitsu in the UK. Email Julian at email@example.com