The King's Coronation: A Royal Flush For British Retail

union jack bunting for the king's coronation

Britain will host its first coronation this weekend (6 to 8 May) in 70 years. The King Charles III coronation will take place on Saturday, 6 May, and Monday, 9 May, has been declared a bank holiday, much to the delight of Britons. While the day will be full of celebrations of every scale, people are still projected to make it to the shops. In fact, data shows that the coronation weekend is set to fuel a staggering £1.76 billion retail sales boost!

The weekend couldn’t come at a better time. After a wet and cold March and April and a delayed start to spring-summer shopping, retailers are crossing their fingers for a ‘Mega May’. The hope is that the royal celebrations and the extra bank holiday will provide a much-needed increase in sales. James Hardiman, a senior analyst at the British Retail Consortium, notes that “Retail sales are usually boosted by large national events. Given the King’s coronation will be such a historical event, we expect an even larger uptick.”

READ MORE: How In-store Analytics Bolster Resilient Retail In The UK

Biscuits, Bunting, And Bears 

Savings website reports that 6.1m people are expected to purchase decorations over the weekend (amounting to around £0.28bn). Perhaps unsurprisingly, 4.2m consumers will buy memorabilia or souvenirs, such as commemorative mugs and plates (to total about £0.13bn). Another £0.18bn will be spent on other coronation essentials by some 2.7m patriotic merrymakers. 

Typically, royal images and the coat of arms cannot be used for commercial products without permission from the royal family. However, Buckingham Palace relaxed the rules to allow the use of official insignia on coronation souvenirs. These relaxed rules have resulted in a tidal wave of royal-happy products ranging from cushions and keyrings to make-up bags and water bottles. The idea that locals are living through something so historically significant has drummed up a serious sense of patriotism and nostalgia – and enterprising retailers are capitalising on these sentimental moments. 

CNN reports that Marks & Spencer, a major supermarket and clothing chain, expects to sell more than 1 million commemorative tea and shortbread tins. The retailer is also projecting to sell 255,000 meters (279,000 yards) of its “Union Jack Coronation Bunting,” for thousands of street parties planned across the country.

One of the more surprising sell-outs is novelty coronation-themed plush bears. The John Lewis Coronation teddy bear (£15) has been so popular that the retailer has had to limit sales to two per household. When it first launched in March, the store claims it was selling one bear per minute. On eBay, sellers are listing bears for more than double the retail price, reports The Guardian.

Additionally, Waitrose has received renewed support for its Duchy Organic range. Established by the new King in 1990 to sell organic produce from his farm, the brand has been available in Waitrose since 2010 and has become the UK’s largest organic food and drink brand. In the spirit of his coronation, shoppers are hunting for Duchy Organic products, particularly those that are traditionally commemorative, like shortbread tins. 

According to Forbes, other celebration essentials expected to fly off the shelves include scones, clotted cream, jam, and champagne. Grocer Co-Op anticipates a 120% surge in the sale of scones, with clotted cream and jam sales predicted to soar by 300% and 40% respectively. Moreover, champagne sales are set to treble that of a regular weekend – all to better toast to the new king of England, of course!

Business As Usual For Retailers?

Unlike the late Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last year, retailers are under no official obligation to close their doors on the day of the coronation. No major chains have announced that they will not be trading on the day. For the most part, it should be business as usual for supermarkets, convenience stores, and pharmacies.

Some retailers may adjust their trading hours to allow staff to participate in the momentous celebrations. Plus, local or independent shops may choose to close for the day. But, if anything, Monday’s bank holiday may be most affected, with retailers amending their hours in line with standard bank holiday trading practices. Others may get into the spirit of things. For example, Asda is offering its staff a paid day off on Monday so that they can participate in the Big Help Out, which is a national day of volunteering to mark the coronation.

Economic Impact At A Glance

Whilst 53% of UK consumers will choose not to celebrate the coronation, the understanding is that they will use their additional time off to shop, eat out, and travel instead, therefore still contributing to the weekend’s economic boost. Additionally, the coronation is a massive tourist attraction, with revellers travelling from all across the globe to join in on the celebrations. Forbes reports that London's West End retailers are gearing up for a bumper weekend of welcoming tourists from the USA and Europe. The festivities are rippling through local supermarkets and international luxury labels alike. 

Soberingly, the increased spending may be levelled out by Monday’s bank holiday… In research published last year, PwC estimated that a public holiday falling on a Monday costs the UK economy £877 million ($1.1 billion), even after considering the boost to consumer spending. Only time will tell what the real cost and gain of the coronation is. But one thing is sure: UK retail is in for a big weekend. 

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About the author:

Headshot: Ashton Kirsten

Ashton Kirsten, Marketing Communications Coordinator, RetailNext

Ashton holds a Master's Degree in English and is passionate about starting conversations through impactful content and executing data-driven creative strategies. She is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she can be found reading, writing and researching.

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