Retail

Britain’s $2B Royal Commerce Boon

Spring has been called the season of renewal — new birth and new life — and it doesn’t get much better than the announcement of a marriage and a birth to drive home the cliche.

For Britain, spring 2018 has turned out to be a notable year, as the country got a two-for-one special in this regard. On Monday (April 23), the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, gave birth to her third child and second son, Prince Louis (Lou-ee, not Lou-iss). On May 19, Prince Harry will marry American actress and style icon Meghan Markle.

Now, granted, neither of these events is unprecedented in the U.K. Prince Harry is now 6th in line for the throne, so his wedding will be a “small, intimate affair,” according to British Vogue, of about 600 guests.

You know, the typical, small, backyard wedding.

OK, maybe not — since very few backyard weddings are overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury — but when compared to the 1,700-person affair in celebration of the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, Prince Harry’s wedding plans are moderate by comparison.

But then again, Prince Harry is marrying not just an American woman, but an American TV actress — a fact that has kept U.K. tabloids busy since the wedding was announced in November. The risks of this wedding being forgotten seem pretty low.

The royal birth is the second springtime event for the U.K., and the new prince is 5th in line for the throne. Has local excitement about the birth dulled in response to this fact? We don’t claim to be experts on the hearts and minds of the U.K. citizenry, but, if a picture tells a thousand words, it seems Britain is adequately excited:


So excited, in fact, that experts are predicting the wedding and the birth will have a notable — if rather lopsided — effect on the U.K. economy. The royal baby will add between $68 million and $100 million to the U.K. economy over the next year; the royal wedding, on the other hand, is expected to add $2.4 billion.

The Royal Boon

It’s worth noting that, according to BBC reports, opinions are mixed on the subject. Recent trends that have kept purse strings tight in the U.K. will persist — royal action or no royal action.

The royal birth is expected to be a particularly weak economic driver.

“Historically, a new royal baby tends not to have a material effect on the economy. And a major boost seems even more unlikely this time, bearing in mind how many households are strapped for cash,” Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, told the BBC, as there’s not a lot in it for the broader U.K. economy.

However, even professed pessimists like Shaw admitted that the unusual confluence of a wedding and a birth might actually produce some positive results.

“This flurry of royal activity should continue to encourage tourism into the U.K.,” he said, noting that the simultaneous events are essentially a signal boost for the royal family, by extension increasing their popularity.

“So, flights into the country, restaurant spending and accommodation, whether by professional suppliers or by the local Airbnb brigade, could all get a boost,” he added.

The more enthusiastic economic watchers are predicting a larger influx of cash, as the events will bring all kinds of attention to U.K. brands from buyers around the world — buyers, experts noted, who can now access goods more easily than ever before through eCommerce channels.

“The birth of the new prince is also a tremendous marketing opportunity for British producers and retailers of baby products who can reference the royal baby in their promotional campaigns,” Brand Finance CEO David Haigh commented.

It’s an effect some retailers are already noticing. Young Louis made his introduction to the world wrapped in a merino wool blanket made by GH Hurt & Son Ltd in Nottingham.

The small family business makes luxury, knitted, lace shawls and has been doing so for the last 100 years. As of this week, the company has produced baby blankets for three generations of royals at an incredibly reasonable price. The blanket the little prince went home in this week retails for £69.95 ($96.04).

GH Hurt & Son Ltd — which still uses 400-year-old machinery in its factory — is delighted, if a bit overwhelmed, by all the attention it’s received for being chosen for the third time by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

“We’ve been incredibly busy all morning,” Gillian Taylor, the director of GH Hurt & Son, told Harper’s Bazaar. “We’ve seen a big rise in online sales, and there has been an increase in demand internationally, particularly from customers in the United States. This design in particular looks back at our local knitted lace heritage, so it’s great to see a little bit of Nottingham going around the world.”

Taylor noted the company is committed to filling every order, though it might take a while to get through some of the backlog.

If you don’t want to wait a long time to own something that will help you feel more connected to the various royal goings-on, we have good news.

There are so many other things you can buy.

Royal Celebration Schwag

As with all major events that inspire merchandising, one’s options for owning a bit of history range from the tasteful to the tacky, from the ridiculous to the sublime.

For those looking for conservative choices, there’s always commemorative china. To welcome Prince Louis, consumers can purchase a plate ($68), a pillbox ($49) or a tankard ($55). Each bears the phrase “Welcome to our new royal baby” and is decorated with gold ribbons, silver pompoms and the coronet of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

It’s very … eye-catching.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

If china feels a bit stuffy, there are other, trendier options.

Like a coloring book.

(Seriously.)

As an inducement to shop on Jet.com, consumers can now pick up a copy of a coloring book all about the soon-to-be-wed couple titled, “Harry and Meghan: A Love Story Coloring Book.”

For the bargain price of $9.64, said coloring book lets customers color between the lines on “30 regal ready-to-color pages.” Our favorite illustrations include a picture of the royal couple posing together inside a heart and a royal wedding invitation — just in case yours got lost in the mail.

The best part? The pages are perforated, so particularly well-colored creations can be separated and hung on one’s refrigerator or wall in celebration.

And if coloring books aren’t a tangible enough sign of one’s enthusiasm for the royal wedding, well, we’ve saved best for last.

The dolls.

Those 18-inch cuties come to market care of American computer scientist, grandmother and royal family enthusiast Shirley Lee.

Lee, an African American woman who said she was inspired by Merkle’s multiracial background, created the dolls dressed in outfits based on her own designs and best guesses as to what she thinks the couple will wear when they tie the knot.

“Fifty years ago, when I was a little girl of color, there were never princesses we saw, even though they existed. We didn’t see them. Meghan Markle opens up a whole world. She represents an empowered woman, an attractive woman, a smart woman,” the New Jersey native told Reuters Television.

Lee already had a line of dolls wearing historical outfits, as well as versions of pop culture characters like Elsa from the animated movie “Frozen”; they’re sold on her “History Wearz” Etsy shop.

The dolls retail for $89 each, or $149 a pair, and have already sold a few dozen times to buyers in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. Lee’s goal is to sell about 200 this year.

If you want to see how accurate Lee’s royal wedding dress design was, you’ll have the chance to watch the royal nuptials yourself on May 19. The event will be televised live on a Saturday morning (in a break from royal tradition of having royal weddings on weekdays). U.S. networks will begin their coverage at 4:30 a.m.

Wearing a giant fancy hat while watching the ceremony in your pajamas in bed is not necessary, according to experts, but is highly recommended.

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