The Royal Wedding presents retailers with a band of golden opportunities. Gaelle Walker looks at how retailers can make sure they join the party
The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on April 29 will not just bind together a man and a woman. The day, with all its associated frill and fanfare, will unite communities and give retailers the chance to show off their importance.
It is estimated that retailers could generate more than £400m from the occasion as Brits, rocked by the recent horrors in Japan, Libya and the general economic gloom, give themselves over to revelry for a day or two.
With more than four billion people worldwide expected to watch the wedding, the day will mark the biggest broadcast event in history, and by association a mega sales opportunity for grocery retailers.
Up and down the country retailers are preparing for the sales rush. “This event will create a great chance for convenience stores to take a lead in the community and cater for individual parties, street events, or for local clubs and groups to lay on a celebration,” says Salim Setra, the senior negotiator for non-food products at Bestway. The cash and carry group is offering a range of Royal Wedding memorabilia, as well as flags and bunting, great for decorating store exteriors and signposting key sellers such as soft drinks, lager, and sharing bags of crisps, confectionery and biscuits.
And, in a bid to bag an even bigger slice of the Royal Wedding cake, a number of big-name grocery brands have launched limited-edition products. Guaranteed to add some fizz to any party spread, Coca-Cola Enterprises has made Royal Wedding packs of Schweppes Lemonade, Tonic, Canada Dry and Bitter Lemon available throughout April, while a joint initiative with Diageo to drive spirit and mixer sales in the off-trade has created a tailored advert with the strapline: ‘Here’s to the Royal Wedding (and an extra day off).’
United Biscuits has introduced a limited-edition tin of McVitie’s biscuits, and from Smith Kendon comes a commemorative Royal Wedding travel sweet tin.
Haribo has also jumped on the bandwagon with a limited-edition Hearts and Rings and Other Nice Things sharing bags. Packs contain jelly rings, hearts, lips, and present-shaped sweets.
For many convenience store retailers, simply selling party products is not enough. Some are getting involved in large-scale celebrations to mark the occasion. Lesley and William Brown of Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstable, Devon, are really pushing the envelope with plans to hold their own ‘wedding service and reception’ complete with William and Kate lookalikes, a DJ, and a cake for locals.
Hash and Chan Shingadia, owners of the Spar store in Kate Middleton’s home village of Buckleberry, Berkshire, had intended to host a special celebration for local people outside the store, but were forced to hastily re-organise their plans after receiving a Royal invite to the big day itself.
“We’re now planning to hold a special ‘wedding breakfast’ with tea and bacon rolls for all our local customers,” explains Hash. “Then at 11am we’re being whisked off to London. We’re so excited, and our customers can’t wait for us to get back to hear all about it.”
Following the Shingadia’s departure, the celebrations will continue on the village green, where Spar is sponsoring a special wedding cake, which will be cut on live TV.
Other retailers, such as Sylvia Winter of Creaton Post Office in Northamptonshire, are helping their communities celebrate by donating soft drinks and party food to a village buffet.
And judging by Met Office predictions, the weather should be on their side. National weather records from the past 21 years show that, on average, the daytime maximum temperature on April 29 has been 16.6°C. It’s also been dry for 15 of the last 21 years, leading the Met Office to estimate a one in three chance of seeing more than 1mm of rain and only a one in 30 chance of seeing more than 10mm on the big day.
However, the occasion will not be without its challenges for store owners most notably staffing. North-West law firm Mace & Jones says it has received a number of queries from employers confused about staff rights around bank holidays. “In England and Wales there is no automatic right for an employee to have the day off on a bank holiday it depends on their contract of employment,” says the firm’s head of employment law Martin Edwards. “In the same way, if employees do work on a bank holiday their pay for the day will depend on their contract, as there is no statutory right to overtime or time off in lieu.”
Edwards recommends that retailers discuss their expectations for the day with their employees as soon as possible, to ensure the day runs smoothly.
And don’t forget that April 29 is just one of a long line of celebratory occasions likely to prompt get-togethers with family and friends. As well as May’s bank holiday bonanza there are major football and rugby finals to look forward to, not forgetting the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.
So let’s take our glasses and raise a toast to the bride and groom, and a long summer of sales success.