LONDON (AdAge.com) -- The just-announced royal engagement, followed by a royal wedding, will provide a much-needed boost for the U.K. economy, with souvenir cups, T-shirts and even thimbles available on eBay within hours of the announcement that the Queen's grandson Prince William will marry Kate Middleton next year.
Aynsley China immediately began selling a more traditional "engagement collection" featuring a coaster, a loving cup, a tankard and a plate.
Retail analyst Verdict estimates that the Royal Wedding could bring in an extra $984 million to the U.K. economy next year, of which $343 million would come from travel and tourism, and the other $641 million benefiting retailers. The event could also help the country's morale just as it starts to feel the full pinch of deep government cuts. Or, the lavish display could be an inflammatory focal point for protests and demonstrations.
Verdict consulting director Neil Saunders said, "We believe that in merchandise sales alone the engagement could be worth between $20 and 30 million. The benefit of the wedding itself is much bigger. If, as expected, it is a big set-piece event, merchandise sales could easily top $40 million, while food and grocery retailers could cash in to the tune of $570 million, as consumers buy extra treats to celebrate the occasion, as well as Champagne and wine to toast the happy couple."
Meanwhile the public-relations machine has gone into overdrive as agencies send out out press releases promoting their clients as the go-to provider for royal wedding outfits, cakes, jewelry, honeymoon venues and anything else that might help fill the column inches that the British public will devour between now and the nuptials, scheduled for spring or summer next year.
Newspapers and magazines anticipate a boost in sales, and the Sun -- part of Rupert Murdoch's News International stable -- rushed to publish a 12-page "royal pullout" today in celebration of the engagement.
Last night, ITV, Britain's biggest commercial TV station, boosted viewing figures by securing the first, exclusive interview with the happy couple. During the interview, Levi's scored a publicity coup with the revelation that Kate Middleton had a poster of "the Levi's guy" on her wall at university when she first began dating Prince William.
Around 750 million TV viewers watched Prince Charles marry William's mother, Diana, in 1981, and in 1997 an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world watched Diana's funeral. The event will attract advertisers, although when given a choice, the Brits tend to turn to the ad-free BBC to watch major live events, so that they can enjoy them uninterrupted by commercial messages.
Whichever designer gets to create Ms. Middleton's wedding dress will score a huge PR triumph, but the couple have already deprived a jeweler of equivalent fame -- and income -- by recycling Diana's engagement ring instead of buying a new one.
The wedding will be paid for by a mixture of the Royal Family and British taxpayers, with no paid sponsors.
Although the royal family doesn't accept sponsorship, it does allow its favorite product suppliers to promote themselves as Royal Warrant holders. Currently three members of the royal family -- Queen Elizabeth, husband Philip and Prince Charles -- have 850 Royal Warrant holders in 44 product categories ranging from antiques and stationery to software and pest control. They include General Motors U.K. subsidiary Vauxhall, toiletries and cosmetics marketers Elizabeth Arden, Clarins and Crabtree & Evelyn, Fortnum & Mason for food, and Shell service stations.
William and Kate have said that they will be "mindful" of the economic situation, but inevitably it will be difficult to balance the current mood of austerity with the clamor for glamor.
One way to save money at the reception might be to use products from Prince Charles' own label, Duchy Originals. The company, named after the Cornwall estates held in trust by the Prince of Wales, distributes organic products nationwide, including meat, poultry, fish, biscuits, chocolate, desserts, ales and cider, fruit drinks and tea. Surely the father of the groom could offer a discount?