British Business Bank On Royal Wedding

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The upcoming royal wedding is likely to inject some economic optimism into the austerity measures facing Britain. If previous royal events are anything to go by, Britain can now expect a flood of tourists in addition to tons of commemorative souvenirs.


Oh, there's so many tough questions when you're planning a wedding, especially when it's a royal wedding. The date hasn't even been set for the wedding between Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton, but people are still asking questions. Will it be in Westminster Abby? And should the Obamas be invited?

These are tough economic times in Britain and retailers have questions of their own, such as how much the wedding will be worth to them. They're hoping it will boost everything from tourism to the sale of souvenir mugs. Vicki Barker reports from London.

VICKI BARKER: Sandie Dawes can put a price on Prince William and Kate Middleton's happiness - about $900 million. That's how much the royal nuptials are expected to generate for British retailers, British hotels and restaurants, and the British travel industry.

Ms. SANDIE DAWES (CEO, VisitBritain): In a hugely competitive market out there for us to get this publicity boost for free, essentially its wonderful news.

BARKER: Dawes runs VisitBritain, the nations tourism agency. Every place associated with the happy couple, it appears, now glitters with gold.

Ms. DAWES: It gives us the opportunity to talk about Scotland because they studied at St. Andrews. Theyre going to live in North Wales, and of course London and the pageantry that might surround the royal wedding if it takes place here.

BARKER: And were not just talking about dutiful trudges through castles and stately homes. Dawes points out that Middleton likes shopping at the big British clothing chains, and that both Kate and William enjoy clubbing. Those sectors too should get a boost from younger tourists.

For older consumers with deeper pockets, Royal Crown Derby has been producing porcelain for British royalty since 1770, and its happy to sell some to you too. Marketing director Simon Willis says the firm already has prototypes for a William and Kate wedding range.

Mr. SIMON WILLIS (Marketing director, Royal Crown Derby): Were waiting for the wedding dates to now come along and we can insert those into the pieces that need them and away well go.

BARKER: Willis says the keen-eyed will notice that the conjugal monogram incorporates an intertwined W and a C, not the letter K.

Mr. WILLIS: When we started on this, about two years ago, we were obviously working on Kate. But then she let it be known that she was Catherine, I presume hoping that this day would come.

BARKER: Royal Crown Derby wedding memorabilia will cost you between $75 and $5,000 apiece.

Mr. ALAN JOHNSON (Memorabilia Salesman): Mugs, pens.

BARKER: Or you can soon pick up a cheap and cheerful William and Kate wedding mug from Alan Johnson, selling stacks of British memorabilia near Piccadilly Circus.

Mr. JOHNSON: The pen has got William and Harry on it. Not a great seller. It's only young girls who are interested, because they're the most eligible bachelors, supposedly, in the world. They sell less than Diana does, even today.

BARKER: He predicts his business will only pick up about 10 percent around the royal wedding, because people who buy souvenirs were always going to buy souvenirs: if they buy a William and Kate mug, then they just wont buy a London double-decker bus mug, he says. Johnson was with the crowds outside St. Pauls cathedral 29 years ago when Prince William's parents married. He says things are different now.

Mr. JOHNSON: When Charles and Diana got married, everyone was still in the old mindset of going to see a wedding and it was a great thing. Now media covers everything. People don't bother so much.

BARKER: Timing isnt always everything. Four years ago, Woolworths here in Britain was so confident the couple would get engaged, it produced a commemorative mug and plate. In the event, the relationship outlived the retailer. Woolworths Britain went bankrupt early last year.

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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