News of royal wedding gives boost to British business
It's much more than a royal wedding in July. It's an instant lift to the spirits of British hoteliers, flagmakers, tea-towel factories, potteries, private mints, clothiers, stately homes, tourist officials, philatelists, book publishers, and hordes of others hoping that the princely good news will rub off on them.
The British economic slump has lasted so long and hit so hard that Prince Charles' engagement to Lady Diana Spencer has generated hand- rubbing anticipation in board rooms and on the London Stock Exchange, and a spate of rosy business forecasts.
"Good for London," said a representative of the London Tourist Board. "It'll help project an image of London as a good place to come. A late July wedding would fit in nicely after Wimbledon and the trooping of the color in June. . . ."
"The more the merrier," said a spokesman for the 13,000-acre Althorp estate 66 miles north of London in the open countryside of Northamptonshire. Althorp Hall has been the stately home of Lady Diana's ancestors since 1508.
"We don't get as many visitors as some of the larger homes," he said. "We're open at weekends, at L1 [$2.23] per head. We hope for a landslide now, to see our collection of paintings of English kings and so on."
"Don't forget the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire, near High Grove where Prince Charles has bought his home," reminded Stephanie Clark of the British Tourist Authority.
"People will want to visit there, and other stately homes."
Sir Henry Marking, chairman of the tourist authority, commented, "Just the fillip the industry needed: Great royal events are always a tremendous attraction for visitors from overseas."
"A nice boost for business," Derek Halfpenny of the famous Wedgwood pottery firm in north Staffordshire said.
"We have quite major plans for souvenir crockery and glassware," Peter williams, Wedgwood deputy chairman, added.
Mr. Halfpenny continued: "Our design team has worked out nearly 50 different items in the Wedgewood group, which includes Coalport, William Adams, Mason's ironstone, and Wedgwood glass.
"There are sweet dishes from L5 to L10 [$11.15 to $22.30] with portraits of the royal couple in white, up to loving cups and goblets, and on to a limited edition of 20 head and shoulders of Prince Charles, sculpted in ceramic by Royal Academician David McFall, 20 inches high, each selling for L2,000 [$4,460]. Six hundred in black basalt will go for L800 [$1,784] each.
"Just today our head modeler has produced a new profile of Lady Diana for candy dishes, boxes, plates, plaques, mugs, and so on."
Wedgwood will sell various souvenir items in the United States as well.
Mr. Halfpenny denied press reports that the wedding would be a "lifesaver" for Wedgwood. He said company sales were up in the third quarter of the year ending in March (though profits were down). Some workers were on short-time, and clearly the company hopes for better fortunes now.
Royal Doulton, too, is hard at work. Designers have already drawn portraits of Lady Diana. A Crown Derby vase in blue and gold will cost L500 ($1,115).
"We've started advertising already," said a spokesman for the Birmingham Mint , a private company that specializes in coining currency for other countries, but makes medals as well.
"We've been waiting for the engagement news for some time. We had the designs already to go -- the initials 'C' and 'D,' a crown, and a floral design, on bronze medals [L4.45 each ($9.92)], sterling silver medals [L29.50 each (L65. 78)], gold-plated silver [L36 ($80.28)], and 22-karat gold at L598 ($1,333.54) each."
Just two days after the wedding announcement was made, one London stamp company (Stanley Gibbons) had large advertisements in the press urging collectors to write to their "Royal Wedding Dept." to reserve a "most important" set of commemorative stamps from Britain and the Commonwealth.
And as the staid Financial Times noted, the engagement "did not go unnoticed on the stock market."
Hotels were up. So were department store companies, such as the House of Fraser, which owns Harrod's. Moss Bros., which hires out formal clothing, shot up 15 pence (to 195 pence) the day after the announcement. Wedgwood was up 3 (to 76 pence). The Birmingham Mint rose 8 to 230 pence, and flag and marqueenmaker Black and Edgington flapped happily higher.
The Ulster Weaving Company, well-prepared, unveiled a tea towel with the royal likenesses imprinted on it and assorted crowns and em blems.