- By Region
For months British retailers have tapped a single colour palette of choice for in-store marketing displays: the red, white and blue of the Union Jack.
Retailers are pinning their hopes on the Queen’s diamond jubilee – the first in a series of events this summer – to boost sluggish sales, with products from garden gnomes to Union Jack socks, to tempt Britons and overseas tourists to buy into the celebrations. Stores are looking to the holiday mood boosted by an extended bank holiday weekend next month, to offer some respite after poor spring trading.
Some retailers expect a ripple effect from the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton last year, saying the nuptials encouraged a new generation to buy memorabilia associated with the monarchy.
“Last year’s royal wedding increased consumers’ interest in royal memorabilia, and sales of these kinds of items have been consistently higher since then,” said Anna Rigby, head of buying for home accessories and gifts at John Lewis who says they are often bought as presents. “People from both the UK and abroad want to share in the experience of these national events, and enjoy having something which reminds them of the day.”
John Lewis says sales of royal memorabilia are increasing by upwards of 15 per cent each week, with popular items including Dartington Crystal jubilee champagne flutes and Cath Kidston jubilee mugs.
Emma Bridgewater, a ceramics manufacturer, which expects to make more than 200,000 pieces of commemorative jubilee ware, says sales will surpass those associated with the royal wedding. It has already sold £3.25m of merchandise, compared with £1m for the royal wedding last year.
But these manufacturers have also benefited from the longer-term resurgent popularity of products whose designs draw inspiration from classic 20th-century British style while giving it a modern twist.
“As times have become more austere and difficult, we’ve become nostalgic,”says Neil Saunders, managing director at retail consultancy Conlumino, pointing to the popularity of brands such as Emma Bridgewater and Cath Kidston.
Retailers are also looking to other types of products to capture the national mood. B&Q is offering royal gnomes priced £20 for the pair. Asda’s George clothing business recently showed off products from Union Jack deely boppers for kids, to red white and blue sundresses and wellington boots.
Fiona Lambert, brand director for George, said the Union Jack socks, which cost £1 a pair, were proving a particular hit, almost selling out a week after their May launch, and are still proving one of the business’s best sellers.
“Whether it’s raining or sunny; whatever size you are; whether you are a fashionista or a finance director, the fact that you can join in the feel-good factor is really important,” she said.
Waitrose reports that consumers are seeking out traditional British products, such as trifle.
But some analysts fear that any sales boost from the jubilee festivities could prove temporary, given the backdrop of weak consumer confidence.
Mr Saunders said: “It’s a real feel-good weekend, and I think that is going to be helpful to the retail sector. It doesn’t change anything longer term.”