Royal Wedding – no official merchandise: it’s official

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on January 18, 2011

Probably not unexpectedly, we have received a letter from Clarence House ( the home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall ) explaining that there will be no official process for licensed merchandise for the wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. The letter is marked Private & Confidential, so I’m not at liberty ( or at least, not if I wish to maintain my liberty ) to reproduce it here. However, it’s clear that Clarence House does not wish to discriminate between UK business wishing to exploit an obvious commercial opportunity based on a state occasion. In its way this is quite praiseworthy, and clearly well-intentioned. Given the time-scales, anyway, most self-respecting UK based licensees would have struggled to complete their normal development procedures in time to launch in April 2011. However, I still think that it’s a pity. Already we have had media denouncement of  ‘Royal wedding tat’ and we will undoubtedly see sundry poor and tawdry efforts to cash in on the celebrations. ‘Legitimate’ items are also available, of course, but, unless you have a brand with strong public recognition ( like UK LIMA member The Royal Mint ) it will be difficult to differentiate quality products from all the rest. The lack of official merchandise also tends to lead to a race for margin by retailers, thus further depressing chances of high-quality manufacture as every penny in savings is chased to keep trade prices as low as possible.

Royal occasions, by their very nature, rarely enjoy a prolonged period of notice. Even the impending birth of a new heir to the throne would probably not come to the public’s attention until six months or so before the arrival of the child. Such time scales don’t help in licensing. However, I still wish we could find a way to put royal occasional merchandise on an official footing. Both sides would benefit: ‘royalties’ could go the the Princes Trust or another worthy cause supported by the monarchy. Official sanction would improve the quality of the overall offering, and allow a clear differentiation between the good, the bad and the ugly. This would save us from being tarred by the press’s prediliction for seeking out the worst examples of royalty-inspired consumer goods and, having found them, labelling the whole business as ‘tacky’. I also think that the public is ready for it. This Christmas past, for example, there was much public discussion as to whether all charity Christmas cards were what they seemed, and there was great interest in identifying those that really offered a good return to their cause. Something sanctioned by the palace, and returning revenue to a royal charity, would be welcomed, I’m sure. Well, maybe next time. At least we all get an extra day off, part of which we can perhaps spend in trying to solve this particular royal dilemna.