Football's coming home, to UK retailers' delight
England fans (Getty Images)
Shaftesbury - Mike Angell is on a 300-mile (480-kilometre) round trip in his company van, racing to deliver outsized quantities of booze to social clubs and restaurants in time for England's date with World Cup destiny.
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Football has been coming home to swell the bottom line for pubs, shops and even one record company as England's unexpected run to the semi-finals delivers a timely boost for Britain's Brexit-bound economy.
Angell is normally a sales manager for Tolchards, a drinks wholesaler in southern England.
But he volunteered to make deliveries as the company strives to meet runaway demand from its retail clients in advance of Wednesday's semi-final between England and Croatia.
"With the weather and the World Cup, customers have been saying: 'We'll take absolutely anything you've got'," the 44-year-old told AFP during his 12-hour delivery run covering a wide swathe of southwest England, from Devon to Dorset.
The Three Lions' performance in Russia has formed part of a hat-trick of summertime success for businesses, as a long spell of uninterrupted sunshine heats up consumer spirits already lifted by the royal wedding in May.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) predicts no fewer than 10 million extra pints will be served up during the match against Croatia, delivering a boost to the national economy of up to £30 million.
In total, it estimates that 30 million extra pints have been sold in pubs during England's march to their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.
"It's fantastic news for both English football and the Great British pub!" BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said.
The beer industry is fizzing again after a nervous fortnight in June when a European shortage of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) - used to carbonate drinks and refrigerate food - caused some brewery taps to run dry of top-selling beverages.
"With the football being on a Wednesday and the weather being so great, and the CO2 issue, a lot of people have pulled orders forward," Angell said.
But over at Nike, official kit suppliers to the England team, shortages are in evidence as demand for replica jerseys goes through the roof. On the sportswear giant's website, the only sizes of tops available are Small or XXXL.
Among other clothing lines, Marks & Spencer is celebrating booming sales of men's waistcoats.
The high-street retailer is the official tailor for the team, and coach Gareth Southgate has worn the waistcoat at every game, helping to bring the three-piece suit back into fashion despite the sweltering summer temperatures.
Marks & Spencer and other food outlets are doing nicely as well from sales of meat for summer barbecues fired up by fans who prefer to watch the games at home rather than at a heaving pub.
Such fans are causing a big spike in electricity demand every time they open the fridge or turn on the kettle for a half-time cup of tea, the National Grid noted.
Overall, a new report from Barclays bank showed growth in consumer spending stood at 5.1 percent in June.
That was the same level as in May when the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle - coupled with fine weather - helped retailers recover from a long period of ennui that set in after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 .
The Barclays report was "encouraging, as the effects of the sunny weather and World Cup fever have boosted consumer spending", said Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at investment house AJ Bell.
The data only took into account the first England match, against Tunisia, which led to a 33 percent boost to spending in pubs, she noted.
"This means we can expect July's figures to be equally as buoyant, as more people flocked to bars and pubs to watch the England games."
July's data will certainly be even more healthy if England manage to break a jinx stretching back to their only success in 1966 and go all the way in this year's World Cup.
Record buyers are already convinced.
The song "Three Lions" - a 1996 collaboration between The Lightning Seeds and a pair of comedians - is on course this week to top the British singles chart for a third time.
The song's catchy chorus - "It's coming home, it's coming home, football's coming home" - has become the fans' unofficial anthem, and is ubiquitous on airwaves.
If it really does come home to football's birthplace with Sunday's final, the cheers of ecstatic supporters will be amplified by delighted retailers.