How Do Gulf South Consumers Stay Cool?

METAIRIE, La. — Labor Day may have come and gone, and summer might be winding down, but those of us down here in the Gulf South know that summer heat probably isn’t going anywhere — at least as soon as we’d like. After a summer of record-breaking temperatures all over the country, it’s only natural to wonder how all of our behaviors are impacted.

People Are Heated — Literally

Record heat is certainly making people sweat – in more ways than one. As temperatures go up and stay there, so do consumers’ concerns about their livelihood. The sweltering heat of the last few months is impacting public opinion and has introduced new financial concerns. This is especially true in the Gulf South, where costs for utilities such as air conditioning don’t substantially impact consumers until the summer months.

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Energy Emergency

Energy bills are never cheap in the summer, but Morning Consult shows that 45% of U.S. adults are concerned about their costs in July 2023 – this is up 4% from June. Earlier this year, only 3% of both Gulf South and U.S. residents cited the affordability of energy as the biggest concern in the country today. It’s safe to say a record temperature summer can make one (or many) change their minds. 

With two and half months left of hurricane season, one in three adults are “very concerned” about natural disasters in their local communities. About 5% higher than last month — this comes as no surprise as August and September are historically the busiest hurricane months. 

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Shopping Local Can Be Cool

Another positive impact of extreme weather might be in consumer behavior — most notably, an increased interest in shopping locally. Although local products might seem more expensive, Mintel found that the perceived benefits, such as environmental offset, allow the Shop Local movement to grow in spite of higher prices. More local traffic may mean less environmental impact.

Local loyalty signifies U.S. citizens’ increased priority of shopping with brands that align with their values. Even in the face of financial struggles, 60% still prefer to be associated with brands that share their values. As more people choose to see value in lowering their environmental output, more local companies may see higher returns.

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Supply chain issues remain. Although the issue seems to have mellowed out for some, a long-term impact of supply chain problems may have made non-local products just as expensive. The previous benefit of products traveling further being cheaper is not as much of a given, and BDO reports this is just another motivator for people to shop locally.

In the Gulf South, we’ve always trusted local the most. Whether we’re talking about our purchasing habits, where we get our news, or who we spend our time with—we have a unique sense of trust in our local institutions.

Don’t Let the Heat Get You Down

The dog days of summer (and, for the Gulf South, the continued dog days of early fall) can sometimes feel a bit suffocating. So, how are Americans still finding joy in the little things?

Feeling connected: A recent poll by Gallup finds that 55% of Americans believe their community activities are extremely or very important. Even when extreme temps threaten to keep us indoors, Americans are putting more value than ever in spending time in their local neighborhoods and making connections (only 32% deemed it important in 2002).

Keeping active: Even more so than community bonding, 61% place extreme value on their hobbies and recreational activities. Whether it be indoor or outdoor activities, Americans have found an increased appreciation for the hobbies that keep them feeling fulfilled.

What remains the same? Unsurprisingly, the value placed on family, friends and health has remained pretty consistent. 

This summer may be hot and seemingly never-ending — but we somehow stay sunny in the face of it all. We continue to value our communities and our local resources. Both literally and figuratively, we are successfully learning how to stay cool when the heat is on.

This story was adapted from the Gulf South Index, created by The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions.

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