Will the new royal prince deliver for licensing?

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on July 24, 2013

Noah, Oscar, Oliver, Isaac, Jacob, Dylan, Ethan, Leo, Alfie and Harry. According to Babynames.co.uk, these are the ten most popular names selected for male babies born in the UK in the first half of 2013. One thing that you can be absolutely certain of, however, is that any merchandise manufactured to ‘celebrate’ the birth of the royal prince will not be bearing any of those names. Nor Ryan, nor Kelvyn, to choose two other names at random. Good old British princes have to have princely names, the type that will look sufficiently classy and understated to look good on a Harrods’ commemorative plate, or a Fornum & Mason’s royal coat-of-arms tea-set.

So expect no surprises. George, Frederick, Charles, Henry, James, Albert, those are the sort of names that the Cambridge family will be choosing from. That name will find itself on countless souvenir products, which may well provide a mini-bonanza for hard-pressed UK retailers. However, readers of previous blogs by this writer will know that none of them will really count as licensed merchandise, because there isn’t any. With certain limitations, the royal crest is downloadable and usable from the Queen’s own website, available for products high-class and not so high-class. Of course, manufacturers can aim, long-term,to win a ‘royal appointment’ as supplier to a member of the royal family of anything from biscuits to hard liquor ( in the form of the best sort of scotch or gin, of course.) When you achieve this status, you are said to have a ‘royal warrant’. That can’t be done in weeks or months, however, but is the end product of years of endeavour. You can also lose a royal warrant of this kind. A well-known provider of language tuition courses lost a royal warrant some years ago. They simply made up their own ‘regal-looking’ crest and replaced this on the packaging, carrying on ‘as normal’ afterwards. They are still trading, so maybe it was not such a big loss.

Does the British public care as to the source of souvenirs for such a big occasion as the birth of a child who will, one day, be king? I suspect not. The challenge from our industry’s point of view is that all royal baby merchandise, good and bad, will be viewed by the press with a cynical eye. The focus, undoubtedly, will be on the poor stuff. As a result, the pet-phrase ‘tatty merchandise’ will be wheeled out once more. I still believe it to be possible for an official process to be put in place, with royalties ( ahem) going to a nominated royal charity. I refer readers to my previously published ‘Royal Wedding Merchandise Blues’ for my take on the situation as-is.

So what’s in it for us? We can hope that the genuine upbeat national mood engendered by this birth will translate into good retail sales of these, shall we call them ‘themed’ consumer products. If that leads to greater take-up of stock where ‘themes’ are involved, then it’s only a short step to make to drive sales of genuine licensed products for other events, then for the brands and entertainments in which areas we trade every day. I can’t imagine what royal baby lines will reach the USA ( anyone care to call the Franklin Mint and ask? ) or the further-flung states of the commonwealth, but we can hope for something of this outcome there, too.