February 7, 2011 / 4:48 PM / in 7 years

From pies to condoms: the royal wedding cash cow

<p>Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton (L) pose for a photograph in St. James's Palace, central London in a November 16, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/files</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - From plates and pies to underwear and condoms, retailers are gearing up to cash in on the upcoming wedding of Britain’s Prince William to Kate Middleton.

Whether it’s manufacturers of specialist china, or novelty items, or even the company founded by Middleton’s mother, shops and businesses are looking to make the most of the couple’s big day on April 29.

“Every time there’s a royal wedding or a coronation or anything like that, everybody suddenly decides, I think I’ll manufacture a few mugs or tea towels or whatever it happens to be,” said royal biographer Christopher Wilson.

“They’ve been doing that for centuries. It’s a boost for the economy. People will make these things and people will buy them.”

Buckingham Palace has issued strict guidelines on what can and cannot be used on official souvenirs and commemorative merchandise, only allowing tea towels celebrating the engagement after protests from manufacturers.

All such items must be in “good taste,” it said.

But that has not stopped a slew of unofficial memorabilia hitting the streets and internet shopping websites.

Already on offer are “Crown Jewels” condoms, featuring a picture of William and Middleton gazing into each other’s eyes and bearing the famous motto, “Lie back and think of England.”

“In years to come, they will be a timeless memento of a magical wedding day,” said spokesman Hugh Pomfret, although would-be users might be slightly disturbed to see the condoms described a as a novelty product not intended as a contraceptive.

“THANKS FOR THE FREE DAY OFF”

Among the mass of mugs and cups churned out in the couple’s honor is a range of plates by London firm KK Outlet featuring plates emblazoned with slogans such as “Thanks For The Free Day Off” and “It Should Have Been Me.”

The more upmarket ceramics maker Portmeirion, known for its Royal Worcester fine bone china, said last month it would produce 250 new products to commemorate the royal wedding.

Supermarket Tesco produced a popular 16-pound version of the dress Middleton wore when the couple announced their engagement, while sales of rings similar to that given by William to Middleton have soared.

Pieminister, a pie-making outfit in western England, has concocted a commemorative “Kate and Wills pie,” while online retailers are selling souvenir underwear and T-shirts.

Perhaps if you’re fed up with royal mania, you can always purchase a celebratory ash tray emblazoned with the couple’s faces and stub out a cigarette on them.

Retail researchers say the wedding could give a 620 million pound ($1 billion) boost to the British economy as it seeks to close a record peacetime budget deficit.

However, the British Retail Consortium said it was mainly sellers of souvenir items and food and drink in the run-up to the wedding who would be the main beneficiaries.

“Whilst it’s certainly going to be a handy boost to sales in some quarters, in the context of the overall economy and the much bigger influences on it at the moment it isn’t going to be make-or-break for how retailing fares this year,” a BRC spokesman said.

“The idea that this is going to be the great savior of the UK economy or of UK retailing this year is nonsense, but it will be a handy boost for some retailers.”

Amongst those could be Party Pieces, the firm set up by Middleton’s mother Carole.

When asked if it would be producing items for the wedding, it confirmed on its Facebook website page it would soon be selling products for traditional British street parties.

Reporting by Michael Holden and James Davey; Editing by Steve Addison

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