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Retailers fight over £500m spoils of royal wedding

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Along with the media, tourists, the celebrity obsessed and the aristocracy, there is one other group of people who are genuinely extremely excited about the upcoming royal wedding.

Retailers can see vast amounts of money being spent as a consequence of the nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th and are working hard to make sure that people’s hard earned cash is spent in their stores.

Merchandise and marketing connected to the couple’s big day varies from the sublime to the ridiculous.

For every trader cleverly stocking up on bunting and union jack themed memorabilia, there is a German company trying to promote their headphones as the perfect way to listen to the ceremony (no joke).

Estimates vary between £400 million and £500 million as to the uplift in retail sales expected as a result of the celebration and bank holiday; a much needed shot in the arm for high street sales.

Jonathan De Mello, Head of Retail Consultancy at CB Richard Ellis, said: “With historically low UK retail sales figures announced recently, on the back of a raft of poor trading updates from some major retailers, the sector is in desperate need of an injection of vitality. The royal wedding could do just that.”

He estimates that a potential additional half a billion pounds could be made in retail sales, with around 20 per cent of this spent on memorabilia and a further 25 per cent on food and drink to celebrate the historic day.

With this seemingly huge demand for wedding merchandise, retailers have been looking at creative ways to associate themselves with the wedding.

Debenhams has just launched a £6 version of Kate’s engagement ring, Harrods is exhibiting designers’ wedding cakes in its window for a week and gift specialist Past Times has created a whole range of union jack designed products.

Past Times' union jack range, which the retailer says has proven popular in the wedding build-up
Past Times' union jack range, which the retailer says has proven popular in the wedding build-up

Some readers may question the appeal of these items but Past Times’ claims sales of union jack themed products have increased 230 per cent year-on-year in the last month, with union jack tapestry cushion sales soaring 400 per cent alone.

Search marketing and technology specialist Greenlight has reported a staggering 700 per cent rise in online searches relating to the event in the first half of April compared to the previous month, and an average of 9,000 posts on online media regarding the royal wedding.

According to Director of Supply Chain Consulting for BT Expedite Robin Coles, fashion retailers in particular will be busy spreading the news on the net about their tie-ins with the nuptials.

“Fashion retailers need to be seen as supporting the wedding and the place to go to get the latest trends,” Coles explained.

“To do this those who are active on social media, running blogs, or fashion journals, with Facebook pages etc.. are likely to be able to align their brands with this better.”

Whether a retailer is a multiple or an independent, the draw of the big day is having an impact on its activities and business strategies.

Mace convenience stores across north-east England will be holding fancy-dress and fundraising days over the bank holiday weekend, offering promotions on party essentials such as beer, wine and crisps.

Following a similar theme, retail staff at London West End stores such as John Lewis, Boots, Fortnum & Mason and House of Fraser will be getting into the spirit of the occasion by taking part in ‘West End Wear a Hat to Work Day’ on the 29th.

Aside from showing they are involved in the celebrations and engaged with the mood of the nation, it is of course vitally important that retailers stock the correct wedding-themed items. Excess products is not something businesses need to be lumbered with in the current climate.

BT Expedite’s Coles remarked: “Clearly if this stock isn’t sold by the big day it will have very limited value, so stock levels and promotional tools will be key.

“Without active sales reporting and close monitoring of stock levels, retailers could be left with surplus stock.”

But what does all this mean long-term? Although short-term trading boosts and seasonal events are welcome, especially at a time of falling sales and squeezed retailer margins on the British high street, can retailers capitalise on the momentum caused by Friday’s royal occasion?

A Kate and William engagement mug, sold by Asda when Wills popped the question
A Kate and William engagement mug, sold by Asda when Wills popped the question

Nigel Dasler, UK Vice President for shopping analyst Global Blue, does foresee “a lasting halo effect” in London from the wedding, especially when combined with next year’s Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee.

He expects retail tourism to pick up significantly as a result of this greater international focus on London, and it is perhaps here where retailers can benefit most.

“The average spend per trip of a foreign visitor three times larger than that of domestic shoppers’ baskets, and growth in foreign spend in London set to continue above the curve for a good few years after 2012,” he states.

“Attracting and maintaining these customers should be at the forefront of retailers’ minds.”

Published on Tuesday 03 May by Editorial Assistant

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