Queen Elizabeth II Merchandise Is Flying Off the Shelves. King Charles Products? Not So Much
The wait to see Queen Elizabeth II's coffin in Windsor Castle reached 22 hours for some mourners, stretching five miles long.
So, it's no great surprise that the death of the British monarch would also come with demand for commemorative items as people wish to remember the queen's life and 70-year reign.
Merchandise sellers in the U.K. had already been selling a steady stream of Platinum Jubilee merchandise to celebrate the 70th year of her reign, but now after her death started selling items like T-shirts and mugs with messages like "Forever in Our Hearts."
Gift shops in London are selling souvenirs to mark the queen's death — with everything from shirts to mugs to posters and tote bags. https://t.co/PqjI6SddcI
— NPR (@NPR) September 18, 2022
One merchant told NPR that basically any product with the queen's face on it has been popular, whether it's for the Platinum Jubilee or her death. Apparently, as soon as her death was reported, suppliers reached out to stores letting them know that commemorative merchandise was now available.
One tote bag with the queen's face on both sides has reportedly been a popular choice for one merchant, and has been the only item to sell out, despite planning for high demand from the jump.
This is one of the most notable events in recent English (and world) history, so none of this comes as a shock to anyone. But, what is rather interesting is the perceived lack of King Charles III merchandise now that he has ascended to the throne.
One merchant told NPR that they aren't selling any yet, but people are starting to ask for it.
For one thing, a lot of sellers are waiting to sell King Charles III products because it would seem inappropriate to celebrate the king while the nation is still in an official mourning period over the queen's death.
The other possibility is that people just might not have the same appetite for King Charles III merchandise as they did for things relating to Elizabeth II.
Richard Morgan, a reporter for Morning Brew, asked merchandise sellers near Buckingham Palace whether they were selling Charles merchandise yet, and was told by one that they haven't stocked any because after trying to sell some a month ago, no one wanted it.
From his experience, merchandise sellers weren't selling Charles merchandise because there flat out wasn't demand for it:
At store after store across London, it’s the same story: royal merchandise almost exclusively dedicated to the late queen, and a series of askance glares when asked about the desirability of Charles merchandise.
It’s not a matter of being too soon. Down the street from Majestic Gifts, at Cool Britannia, the staff were already walking around in sweatshirts marking the queen’s death with the phrase “Forever in our hearts…1926–2022.” Merchants have the ability to produce Charles-themed memorabilia; it’s just that no one wants it.
Part of that comes down to just how long the queen was in charge. Most British people don't remember a world before her, so they aren't as connected to an item with Charles' face on it. That might change, but even then it might not be until his own son takes charge in the future.
“Nobody will buy anything to do with Charles,” one souvenir shop owner told Morgan. “I think that will be true even after he dies. We will have to wait until the next king, King William.”
Ramin, 38, the owner of the Purple Gifts souvenir shop in Windsor. He says he has no plans to stock King Charles III merchandise because the items related to the late queen’s son haven’t been popular in the past. He said he expects to focus on QEII-themed items for years to come. pic.twitter.com/DZIua6jTCx
— Daniel Arkin (@d_arkin) September 10, 2022
But, for now, it's an interesting look at this moment in history purely from a branding perspective. It speaks to the power of some imagery over others, even if that imagery is representative of real people. At the end of the day, for a lot of people, the monarchy and the Royal Family are brands. Some items sell better than others. Whether or not King Charles III's brand gains more value over his reign remains to be seen, but it will be hard to top Queen Elizabeth II's, at least for a while.