An unprecedented heat wave has brought record-high temperatures to the Pacific Northwest, starting this past weekend.
At nearly 116 degrees, parts of British Columbia were hit with extreme weather warnings. According to reports, deaths spiked in the Vancouver area since Friday, with authorities now determining whether the heat played a role.
To escape the high temperatures, many Pacific Northwesterners took to shopping, giving a welcome boost to independent retailers, who have faced numerous challenges since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s been great for business,” said Rand Clement, owner of The Right Shoe in Vancouver. “With the heat, people just want to get out of their shoes and into sandals.”
Teva and Dansko have been top-selling brands at The Right Shoe, and Birkenstock remains hot with sales up 30% in June.
Although, there have been some drawbacks, said Clement. With the recent boost in sales, there is now a lack of inventory for July and August. “It’s good news, bad news. I have just what’s left on the shelves,” he added.
For Chris Bentvelzen, owner of Shoes-N-Feet in Bellevue, Wash., his store proved to be a place of refuge.
“I think a lot of people who didn’t have air conditioning went to a place that did. Shopping tended to be early in the morning and then died off in the afternoon,” he said, adding that sandals and flip-flops from Oofos and Aetrex were key sales drivers. “It’s challenging, but sales are up from 2020 and now we are having comparable numbers to 2019.”
This is the first time the Seattle area has experienced three consecutive triple-digit days of hot weather. Per a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report, only 44% of Seattle homes have air conditioning.
At Re-Soul in the the historic Ballard district of Seattle, their lack of AC forced the shop to close.
“It was an interesting weekend. I was worried that the heat would scare people away and it did. No one was dining outside, there wasn’t much foot traffic. We had to close early because we just didn’t have the capabilities to keep ourselves comfortable and safe,” said manager Katie Kulseth. “Everyone sort of just ducked and covered. It was definitely out of the ordinary.”