The King and the consumer: what does a new monarch mean for our sector? 

In 2012 the Queen was celebrating 60 years of her reign – her diamond jubilee. Having nostalgically seen royal street parties on television and in films, and desperate to belong, I decided to jump right in and organise a street party for my road – not quite realising what an undertaking it would become. Eventually, a committee of local residents was formed, some of whom I had never spoken to and today are now firm friends. We raised money to buy food, bunting, flags and decorations, we paid for a street band and entertainment, hired tables and chairs, made posters, encouraged people to decorate their houses and in the end it turned out to be more work than a full-time job! Neighbours came from adjoining streets and it was a memorable, joyous party that people still talk about today.

What it taught me, though, was the impact that the royal family had on my neighbourhood and community, and how much a royal event feels like a consumer event: people lining the streets and even pitching their tents, punters in the pubs, special produce in the shops, and of course memorabilia – from tea towels and limited-edition tankards to cups, saucers and coffee mugs too.

In an hour from when this email lands in your inbox, we’ll be officially welcoming a new monarch. When the Queen passed away, I took the time to reflect on her impact on our consumer-facing sectors: her undeniable influence on the fashion industry, her passion for British business, and her model leadership for so many decades. So, as we move into a new era of British monarchy, I thought it right to stop and think about how our consumer sectors have been touched by King Charles III in his capacity as Prince, and how his reign will leave its mark on our world.

A row of Queen's guards lined up outside Buckingham palace, wearing red uniforms and bear-skin hats
More than 2,000 guests are expected to attend the 39th coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey & Buckingham Palace on Saturday.

Like lots of others in Britain, I am perhaps most inspired by the King’s dedication to sustainability. On Sunday evening, I watched a documentary on the BBC – ‘The Making of a Monarch’ – which showed unseen footage of the King as a child, a teenager and in his twenties. While I found the programme really cheesy, I was truly struck by His Majesty’s passion for the environment, and (dare I say with little self-reflection) his commitment to the cause at a time when few others were paying attention. It’s quite remarkable that the first speech he gave on ‘saving the planet’ was in 1970! At this point, it seemed like no one was particularly interested in what he had to say, with many seeing him as little more than an eccentric tree-hugger.

Half a century later, the rest of the world has woken up to the dangers posed by climate change, and I’m sure the King feels somewhat vindicated. His efforts to promote a sustainable future have left a lasting mark globally – he has been a campaigner, a convener and an educator on topics spanning from organic farming and sustainable fishing to urban design and corporate production.

In the past few years in particular, it’s been inspiring to hear how unequivocal the King is about the role of business. In 2021, he launched the Terra Carta (the name a nod to England’s ancient Magna Carta that defined citizens’ rights eight centuries ago), a set of nearly 100 environmental pledges for businesses whose signatories include the likes of Bank of America, AstraZeneca, HSBC and BP. At the launch of the charter, the King spoke powerfully on the part that leaders within large corporates must play in protecting the planet: “I can only encourage, in particular, those in industry and finance to provide practical leadership to this common project,” he said, “as only they are able to mobilise the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy.”

His impact can be felt across our consumer-facing sectors. In fashion, he has encouraged the use of more sustainable practices, through initiatives like the Campaign for Wool; the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué formed in partnership with M&S; his long-standing partnership with Stella McCartney; and the establishment of the Fashion Task Force, currently chaired by Federico Marchetti, former chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER Group.

A special edition coronation Colin the caterpillar adorned with a chocolate crown
Consumer brands are capitalising on the opportunity with special edition products, such as M&S’ Coronation Colin the Caterpillar.

He is a passionate advocate for British entrepreneurship and British craftsmanship, with long-established businesses like Trickers – England’s oldest shoemaker – defined by their ties to the King. And in food, his steadfast belief in the benefits of organic produce and regenerative farming systems has made its mark. Set up in 1990 to market produce grown on his organic farm on Highgrove estate, his brand Duchy Originals is now one of the most successful organic food and drink labels in Britain. Duchy Originals partnered with Waitrose in 2009, and now customers can buy everything from salmon to blueberries under the banner.

The Royal Family means different things to different people, and I know that many don’t share my enthusiasm. And when it comes to this weekend, while parts of the coronation have been tweaked and updated to reflect Britain in 2023, some have argued that they haven’t gone far enough to design a ceremony which speaks to the reality of our country today.

UKHospitality predicted that the King’s coronation will provide a £350m boost to the sector, and research in retail found that the long weekend could bring in more than £1.76bn.

Whatever your stance, there’s no denying that royal events are fundamental to the consumer sector calendar. Last week, UKHospitality predicted that the King’s coronation will provide a £350m boost to the sector, and research in retail found that the long weekend could bring in more than £1.76bn, as people stock up on street party essentials. Personally, I’m always excited to see the products on show. This year, we’ve had everything from Wedgewood’s “God Save the King” fine-bone china range to M&S’ Coronation Colin the Caterpillar.

Most of all, I’m drawn to the idea of the Royal Family as a British brand on the world stage. By the time most people read this, I may well be sitting in front of the BBC watching the coronation, along with many others around the globe. Wishing everyone an enjoyable long weekend… and happy trading! | @thembsgroup