The wedding of England’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton, taking place on April 29, has become almost impossible to miss in London, and one of the main reasons is the huge number of souvenirs and promotional products that fill shops on nearly every highly trafficked block. While austerity and budget cuts have become the norm in England, the wedding has given tourists a timely reason to visit and locals a reason to spend. The moment the engagement of the two was announced, manufacturers began churning out mugs, plates and commemorative pens. Neil Saunders, consulting director of retail researchers Verdict, predicted to The Telegraph that the sale of royal wedding merchandise could top £26 million [$42.5 million].
Walking through the streets of London, visitors come across everything from William & Catherine compacts, commemorative tea tins, ashtrays and shot glasses to pens, cookie tins, book marks, reusable bags, car flags, and yes, condoms (see Royal Wedding protional product images). Some promotions offer a more irreverent take on the event, such as a commemorative plate reading "Thanks for the free day off,” a “Keep Calm and Marry On” poster, and “Kiss Me Kate” beer. While many of these sales are through retail channels, suppliers and distributors have found a number of other opportunities to capitalize on an event of such national and international interest.
“A lot of our supplier members have seized this opportunity and are working with distributors to offer a huge variety of products suitable for all occasions,” says Annette Scott, CEO of PROMOTA, a trade association for the ad specialty industry in the UK. “Products such as flags, pens, hats, mugs and badges are the perfect giveaways at community parties or business events.” The interest has been so high that PROMOTA created an entire web site (www.promota.co.uk/royalwedding) where suppliers can upload images of wedding related products, such as commemorative coaster sets and crystal diamonds, engraved with the couple’s image.
James Biggin, co-owner of Yorkshire-based Steel City Marketing has seen quite a bit of interest, with clients buying up branded paper crowns, handflags and decorated bunting to incorporate into events they are hosting to correspond with the celebration. But while the prices for William and Kate merchandise can run as high as $3,000 for an 18k white gold replica of Kate’s engagement ring, Biggin has primarily seen interest in less-expensive offerings. “It’s been bits and bobs really, the very low-end price range stuff,” he said. “Clients want to focus on things that they can give away to kids at their events.”
Whatever the price point, distributors must adhere to branding guidelines that limit what can appear on the souvenirs, such as they must only use approved images of the royal couple and the official Coat of Arms. Perhaps the biggest restriction for distributors is that merchandise using royal photographs or insignia must be “free from any form of advertisement.”
To comply with this for clients that want to include their logo on products, distributors can use generic wedding and British imagery. For a client buying handflags for a royal wedding event, Biggin used a Union Jack flag with a central space for the client’s logo.
Other distributors in England are expecting the Royal Wedding to also be a last-minute bonanza of ad specialty sales. Lucy Stuart, co-owner of Norfolk, UK–based distributor S R Print and Design, has filled orders for mugs and small flags for clients that give them out at royal wedding-themed events or in gift bags. The breadth of products available, Stuart says, has made this occasion the biggest for promotional product consumer sales since the change of the millennium in 2000. Overall, though, the Royal Wedding ancillary business hasn’t exceeded her expectations – yet. “It’s not as much as we thought it was going to be,” says Stuart. “We thought there would be more interest – unless everyone’s waiting until the very last minute.”
And the ad specialty business in London is sure to keep up its fervent pace following the Royal Wedding later this month. Suppliers and distributors in the area say they’re already gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympics, taking place in London.