Business has mixed emotions on royal wedding
Small companies fear the cost of an extra holiday
NORTHAMPTON, England — Surrounded by boxes in a rickety old warehouse above the family shop, Joe Church hurries to wrap plates adorned with the faces of Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, for a customer in Australia.
The 152-year-old memorabilia business has plenty of reason to celebrate the upcoming royal nuptials.
“It’s good for the royal couple, it’s good for everyone in the UK, and it’s certainly good for business,’’ beams Joe Church’s father, Stephen Church.
But for Dick Searle, the owner of a small digger rental service, the royal wedding — and an extra public holiday — couldn’t come at a worse time. As Britain struggles to pull out of an economic downturn that has crippled the building industry, the last thing Searle needs is to pay his staff for a day with no work.
“They didn’t ask us about it, did they, and we are having it hard,’’ Searle said.
Analysts, though, predict the April 29 wedding will provide a boost of up to $1.6 billion to the economy, largely through retail sales, hotel bookings, and hospitality trade. But each public holiday also typically costs the economy billions in lost productivity.
The Federation of Small Businesses is worried about the timing of the wedding. A holiday so soon after Easter increases the chances of many workers taking extra vacation time — or a few unauthorized sick days — to extend their time off.
Tour companies have reported gleefully that bookings are up from Good Friday until the Monday after the wedding — an 11-day block that makes it possible to travel, say, to the Caribbean.
But giving workers extended leave is an unappealing prospect for many small businesses at a time of rising unemployment, surging inflation, and harsh government spending cuts.
Still, some hope the feel-good factor generated by an extra day off will be worth the inconvenience and lost revenue.
“I think it’s more about consumer sentiment,’’ said Chris Simpson, marketing director at the online shopping comparison site Kelkoo. “England as a country gets behind big events.
“At a time when the headlines seem to be dominated by bad news, the nation is rightly seizing the opportunity to celebrate something positive.’’
National holidays were declared to mark the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 and Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. One is also planned for the queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.
The pressure group Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, said it was “absurd that the whole country gets a day off for something most people are not interested in.’’
Among the clear winners are retailers, led by grocers, who are banking on higher champagne and food sales, and sellers of wedding merchandise like Church’s.
More general retailers are also expected to see a small uptick as people hit the shops on their extra day off.
The Center for Retail Research forecasts the wedding to provide a $856 million boost to British retailers.