A day after the announcement of Britain's next royal wedding, Paul Hirst sped up production at his factory in Sheffield. The managing director of Marvelpress had gotten an order for "thousands and thousands" of commemorative engagement mugs from Wal-Mart Stores' (WMT) Britain-based supermarket chain, Asda. "It was all hands to the pumps to get everything done in time," says Hirst. "We're looking at making iPhone covers, Champagne and wine boxes."
Prince William's engagement to Catherine Middleton has kicked off the race to profit from what will be the biggest royal event in Britain since Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. According to Verdict Research, a retail analysis unit of Datamonitor, the affair, set for Apr. 29, may add £620 million ($995 million) to the economy as consumers spend more on Champagne and other celebratory treats, extra planeloads of tourists fly in, and the likes of Hirst sell separate sets of memorabilia for the engagement period and the nuptials themselves.
It helps if royal mania is affordable. For £16, British retailer Tesco will sell a replica of the designer dress Middleton wore at the engagement announcement on Nov. 16. On the QVC shopping channel on Nov. 17, telephone sales of a ring resembling the one William gave to Middleton jumped ninefold overnight, Marketing Director Sue Leeson said in an e-mail. (The QVC price: £34.) "It will be interesting to see what impact [Middleton] has on British style." said Leeson.
The U.K. economy could do with the boost. The Bank of England predicts growth of 1.8 percent this year and 2.6 percent next, following a slump of 5 percent last year. After the coronation in 1953, the silver jubilee celebration in 1977, and the royal wedding in 1981, the economy picked up its pace, according to an analysis of the data by Bloomberg.
The royal family already prompts tourists to spend more than £500 million a year, says the state-funded tourism board, VisitBritain. "The monarchy is a major reason why overseas tourists come to this country," says VisitBritain spokesman Paul Eastham. "In a royal wedding year, that figure is going to be massively exceeded."
The bottom line: The engagement and wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton will boost the British economy as tourists and locals celebrate.