Saturday September 10, 2022

British business mourns Queen Elizabeth as souvenir sales boom

British business mourns Queen Elizabeth as souvenir sales boom

Souvenirs of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II are sold at the British-owned Tea & Sympathy in Manhattan, New York City. Agence France-Presse

British business paid tribute Friday to Queen Elizabeth II, with department stores shut, flags lowered, clocks stopped and meetings postponed, but souvenir sales boomed near Buckingham Palace as well-wishers thronged.

London’s iconic Selfridges, on the capital’s Oxford Street shopping thoroughfare, and nearby Liberty on Regent Street closed out of respect for the nation’s longest serving monarch who died Thursday.

Many company headquarters lowered flags, while the Bank of England has delayed an interest rate meeting until after the funeral.

Fortnum and Mason, the Royal Family’s tea supplier, was shuttered and even stopped the clock on the front of its luxury department store in London’s Piccadilly quarter.

“We are proud to have held a warrant from Her Majesty since 1954, and to have served her and the royal household throughout her life,” F&M said on their website.

“As a sign of our deep respect, we have lowered our flag to half-mast and stopped the Piccadilly facade clock.”

Elsewhere, the remembrance business was in full swing nearer the palace, as well-wishers gathered to pay respects to the Royal Family -- and hoped to catch a glimpse of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla.

Everyone wants a souvenir: “Everyone wants a queen souvenir,” shop manager Nassir Abdel told AFP at Buckingham Gate, a stone’s throw from the main royal residence.

Abdel, who kept his shop open overnight owing to keen demand, said he had placed an order for souvenirs featuring King Charles III -- but they will take a couple of weeks to arrive.

Customer Janet Saxton, a 73-year-old pensioner from Yorkshire in northern England, browsed the shop’s key rings, mugs and other trinkets bearing the likeness of the late monarch before heading to the palace gates.

On Oxford Street, souvenir salesman Nazz said business was brisk.

“In the coming days we’re going to sell” even more objects featuring the queen while awaiting Charles merchandise, he told AFP.

Worldwide coverage of the queen’s passing is expected to boost Britain’s economy to some extent as it looks to stave off recession caused by decades-high inflation.

Her funeral due September 19 “should have an impact on the tourism sector and the souvenir industry”, according to Mirabaud analyst John Plassard.

“The royal family, which regularly features on the front pages of newspapers, is an object of constant fascination, including well beyond the kingdom’s borders.

“Souvenir sales are expected to rise by £60 million ($69 million) as a result of the funeral,” he added.

Most shops remained open on Oxford Street, including department store John Lewis, where accountant Jo-Anne Allen was seeking out a coat.

Britain’s economy “needs to be kept going, it is no time to shut the country”, she said.

“I do not think she would have wanted more disruption to the country after her death, after Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.”

Tony Danker, head of UK business lobby group CBI, echoed the sentiment.

“Times are hard right now -- made more so by the loss of our much-loved queen -- and our tribute should be to work tirelessly to build a better future for the people of this country in memory of Her Majesty.”

Britain’s economy ended August on a much weaker footing than previously thought as overall business activity contracted for the first time since February 2021 in a clear signal of recession, a survey showed recently.

Data company S&P Global revised down its composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which covers the services and manufacturing sectors, to 49.6 from a preliminary “flash” August reading of 50.9.

It marked the first sub-50 reading - denoting a contraction in output — since British businesses were reeling from a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought back lockdowns in late 2020 and early 2021.

The data showed Britain’s economy is on course to slip into a recession caused by soaring energy costs that are feeding double-digit rates of inflation.

“Demand for consumer-facing services such as restaurants, hotels, travel and other recreational activities is collapsing under the weight of the cost-of-living crisis,” said Chris Williamson, S&P Global chief business economist.

The services PMI for August was revised down to 50.9 from the flash reading of 52.5.

A further cooling of input cost pressures - while still historically high — was one of the few bright spots in the survey.

“Jobs growth is already starting to weaken and, with hiring tending to lag changes in order books, the recent slump in demand alongside surging energy prices points to a growing reticence to employ staff in coming months,” Williamson said.


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