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The most lucrative licence that never was

BLE’s Anna Knight on the unofficial ‘licensing’ programme around the royal wedding.

So, Harry and Meghan are getting hitched on Saturday and, boy, don’t we know it. They are everywhere: all over the media all over the world, including TV, radio (even Jane Garvey was bigging it up on Woman’s Hour this week) newspapers, magazines and social.

Where William and Kate pulled in 13.5m impacts for their wedding in 2011, it’s anyone’s guess how many will tune in to Harry and Meghan’s nuptials. Yes, TV consumption has changed since then, but it would appear public appetite for a Royal Wedding hasn’t dimmed and our affection for the bride and groom seems to be genuine: we actually ‘like’ them and aren’t just being nosey and getting swept up in the hysteria.

So, not only are H&M securing insane amounts of media coverage, they are also proving massively lucrative to business of all kinds. When it comes to the fashion industry, it was reported earlier this year that ‘The Meghan Effect’ could contribute £500m to the British economy. That figure is now considered a conservative estimate. According to fashion search engine Lyst, Meghan is responsible for more fashion purchasing spikes than supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid combined. She has also elbowed the Duchess of Cambridge out of the way to be named The Most Powerful Woman in Fashion by Grazia.

And then there’s the ‘licensing programme’: the official Royal Wedding memorabilia from BLE exhibitor Historic Royal Palaces. Featuring fine bone china mugs, tea cups, plates, trinket and pill boxes, tea towels and commemorative coins from The Royal Mint, it’s traditional, sophisticated, very high quality and will undoubtedly sell well.

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Yet, the market has still been flooded by a rather extensive catalogue of ‘unofficial’ licensed products with the happy couple’s faces slapped all over them, from Emma Bridgewater mugs, to New Look’s ‘I Want to Marry Harry’ tees.

Cath Kidston has a colourful tote and mugs on sale and Ellie Ellie has created #Harkle2018 sweatshirts. And that’s the tasteful stuff. There’s also a tonne of weird things, like dog bandanas, thimbles, paper doll dress ups, copycat engagement rings, colouring books, poker chips and playing cards. Our favourite, though? Well, that has to be the swimsuits. You must have seen the swimsuits. No? Google them, you won’t be disappointed.

I’m not complaining. It was always going to happen – it always does happen – and The Palace would never be able to police this activity even if they were so inclined.

But a part of me does wonder what an official Royal Wedding licensing programme could look like, with a range of creative, fun and great quality products targeting a wide range of fans at an even wider range of price points because, after all, that’s where licensing really comes into its own.

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If you’re reading this and you’re not looking forward to the Royal Wedding, may I recommend you simply do a runner and leave the country?

I hear Vegas is a lot of fun this time of year. Of course, our sister show Licensing Expo kicks off on May 22. After the show’s success last year when Licensing Week was launched, visitors will find even more events for 2018, including the addition of the Global Licensing Group Theatre, a Taste of Licensing University, and the introduction of a virtual browsing experience called VIBE. We’re also moving the opening night party back to Mandalay Bay. You can find the full schedule at LicensingWeek.com.

And, of course, get to town early and you can enjoy a bit of downtime. I hear the hotel has a great pool – an opportunity to try out your Prince Harry swimsuit, maybe?

Anna Knight is brand director of Brand Licensing Europe, which takes place at London’s Olympia from October 9-11.

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