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Cool summer freezes profits

Considering how many cool, cloudy days there were in July this year, chances are many people in Slovakia tuned their TVs to "Baywatch" rather than go swimming themselves. It was the coldest July in decades, according to the Slovak meteorological institute, and while that news depressed spirits nationwide, it also has had a chilling effect on businesses for whom summer is the high season. According to Marián Bohunský, the manager at Zlaté Piesky, the effect of the cool summer has been "horrible." The statistics bear him out. Revenues for the recreational lake on the outskirts of Bratislava are down approximately two-thirds when compared to the same date last year, he said, and average daily attendance has dropped from 3,700 last year to only 1,700 this year.


"Small restaurants were not opened because there was nobody to sell to."

Milan Raček - on the effect of the cool summer at Banská Bystrica's outdoor pool


Considering how many cool, cloudy days there were in July this year, chances are many people in Slovakia tuned their TVs to "Baywatch" rather than go swimming themselves.

It was the coldest July in decades, according to the Slovak meteorological institute, and while that news depressed spirits nationwide, it also has had a chilling effect on businesses for whom summer is the high season. According to Marián Bohunský, the manager at Zlaté Piesky, the effect of the cool summer has been "horrible." The statistics bear him out. Revenues for the recreational lake on the outskirts of Bratislava are down approximately two-thirds when compared to the same date last year, he said, and average daily attendance has dropped from 3,700 last year to only 1,700 this year.

To try to attract more people, Bohunský added, Zlaté Piesky has dropped its entry fee from 12 Sk to 10 Sk for adults and from 6 Sk to 5 Sk for children between the ages of three and 10. However, Bohunský said that the man-made lake complex receives money from the city.

"Our goal is the recreation of Bratislavans, and therefore, profit is not our main intention. So the situation isn't quite as tragic," Bohunský said. "The most unlucky ones are the concessionaires," such as the hotels, restaurants, and buffets, whose owners must pay rent regardless of the weather.

The situation has been just as bleak at swimming holes outside the capital city. Milan Raček, a representative at the Plážové kúpalisko in Banská Bystrica, said that his pool attracted only about 50 people on the cool days during July, while on a nice day the pool usually draws 2,000 bathers.

And the support businesses have suffered. "Small restaurants were not opened," Raček said, "because there was nobody to sell to." Profits at the pool have nosedived, Raček added, from 1 million Sk in July 1995 to an estimated 200,000 Sk for the first three weeks of July this year. In Piešťany, a ticket vendor at Kúpalisko Sľňava had more of the same bad news, spiced with a complaint. "We are suffering," she said. "A lot less people come. Since we opened, our working hours have been extended to 19:00, but it's not necessary, because nobody is here."

People were also less thirsty. Anton Bódis of Pepsi confirmed that, saying the weather has affected the global soft drink producer "in a very negative way." Though he was reluctant to put a figure on Pepsi's losses, "everybody from the soft drink industry looks forward to summertime because it is the best time for our product, and this kind of summer has been very unpleasant for our business," Bódis said.

"Our expectations have not been fulfilled because the volumes are not as high as we would like." The ice cream business has also taken a licking. Andrea Pavlovičová of Algida noted a drop in the firm's ice cream sales. Algida sells much of its ice cream at venues like pools and lakes, and with attendance down at those places, Algida's sales have suffered.

Meanwhile, sales of take-home packages of ice cream and through restaurants have seen little or no effect from the cool summer, mainly because they are available year-round. Fans are a different story. The salesclerk at Intercom on Kollárovo námestie in downtown Bratislava said that fan sales have not suffered terribly, because traditionally the biggest surge in sales comes during the first big heat wave of the season, such as the one in May.

During that time InterCom and many other stores around town sold out of fans. However, since then, sales have been slow, because when it's not hot, the fans don't sell at all. "And this," the salesclerk added pointing outside, "is not hot."

So what is the forecast for the rest of the summer? Only Mother Nature knows, because officials at the meteorological institute said they cannot predict weather patterns for August until that month begins. Nevertheless, businesspeople are keeping a bright outlook. "I'm still an optimist," Bohunský said. "I believe that the good weather must come." Theoretically at least, summer still has a month to run, and businessmen and consumers alike are crossing their fingers that weather will improve, so that people can get out and enjoy summer as it was meant to be.

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