Most marriages usually leave a gaping hole in the happy couple’s finances but business leaders are predicting the “Meghan Markle effect” will sprinkle some stardust on “brand Britain” in 2018.
The engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has sent marketers into overdrive with tourism chiefs, retailers and hoteliers optimistic that the high-profile nuptials will be a boon for the economy on what will be the eve of Brexit.
Euan Venters, the chief executive of Fortnum Mason, the landmark London department store, said “brand Britain” had been damaged by the uncertainty created by Brexit but the wedding would help repair the country’s image abroad, whilst encouraging Britons to stage their own celebrations.
“My take is British citizens are feeling a bit disheartened by the Brexit process, so the royal wedding will be a reason to puff our chests out and remember we are a country of significant note,” he said.
The royal wedding memorabilia machine has already cranked into life, with the Emma Bridgewater pottery brand announcing, within minutes of the engagement being confirmed, that a £20 commemorative mug had gone into production. By the time spring comes, it be will be wall-to-wall chintz with souvenir tea-towels, union jack biscuit tins and wedding-themed paperweights filling retailers’ shelves but the demand for higher-end commemorative china can be big business for Britain’s potters, if they get it right.
“Commemorative ceramics pieces with a ‘made in the UK’ back stamp are particularly valued for cherished items that hold pride of place in people’s homes in the UK and overseas,” said Laura Cohen, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation. “These can be a significant proportion of sales, particularly for some of our specialist, smaller UK manufacturers.”
Dick Steele, chairman of Portmeirion, said the marriage was likely to appeal to customers in North America, which is already the biggest market for the pottery group based in Stoke-on-Trent: “Any joining of the US and the UK is a good thing for us,” he said. “The key with celebrations is to make enough but not too much.”
Meanwhile, fashion brands are closely monitoring Markle’s style cues, given the “Meghan effect” is the natural successor of the “Kate effect”, a term used to describe the sales boost experienced by British brands such as Whistles, Reiss and LK Bennett when the Duchess of Cambridge wore their clothes for high-profile engagements in the media storm that surrounded her marriage in 2011.
“It will be really interesting to see what Meghan Markle’s approach is,” says Lorna Hall, head of market intelligence at the trend forecaster WGSN. “Kate’s approach to fashion, which involved wearing both attainable high street and designer brands, was incredibly astute.”
Markle’s first public engagement in Nottingham on Friday was a good omen for the British high street as she matched a coat from Canadian brand Mackage with a skirt from Joseph and a pair of suede boots from Kurt Geiger.
The tourist authority VisitBritain says the pomp and pageantry associated with the royal family is part of the country’s appeal to overseas visitors, with the bride’s nationality an added bonus because US visitors are our highest spending overseas group.
There is evidence that the wedding is already proving a draw with Windsor hotels with castle views and rooms overlooking the historic high street reporting a surge in bookings in the days since Kensington Palace announced the couple would get married at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle in May.
The biggest beneficiaries of the feelgood factor around the royal wedding boost are likely to be businesses based in the south-east, with the New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in London, predicting a surge in domestic and international visitors.
“We anticipate that 600,000 additional shoppers will give retailers a £60m royal wedding boost,” said Jace Tyrrell, the group’s chief executive.
“There will be huge demand for wedding memorabilia in the run-up to the big day and retailers, hotels and restaurants will be planning commemorative products and special experiences for their visitors,” he added.