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UK: Business is brisk — but sad — near Buckingham Palace

Ella Joyner London
September 11, 2022

Stores and hotels closest to the UK monarchy's official London residence are used to making money from the royals. But this time it's different.

A mug commemorating the death of Queen Elizabeth II
New mugs are already on the shelvesImage: Ella Joyner/DW

The mood on Buckingham Palace Road was not as somber as it could have been, all things considered, on the day Charles III was proclaimed King.

In the Bag O' Nails pub, the ceremony at St James's Palace played on the television but the sound was drowned out by chatter and the clinking of glasses.

Patricia Hajali, the manager of Cool Britannia, a souvenir shop just down the street, said she thought the sadness would come later as the funeral of Elizabeth II, set for September 19th, approached.

"I suppose people are in the process of digesting, like in any process of mourning," she said. "We don't play music upstairs, out of respect," she said.

"It is busier," the Costa Rican-born, longtime UK resident said. "Sadly it is."

 Patricia of Cool Britannia poses in the shop’s basement photo studio
Patricia Hajali said she hoped the things Cool Britannia sold would bring comfortImage: Ella Joyner/DW

A retail boost 

In the UK, royal weddings, jubilees, and births often come with a spending boom, according to the UK-based Center for Retail Research. But the researchers there said it wouldn't be appropriate to forecast spending linked to the upcoming funeral.

Previously, ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in early 2022, the center estimated a retail boost of more than 400 million pounds ($463 million, €462 million) between April and June. 

Cool Britannia's manager welcomed the custom but regretted the reason. "From a business turnover point of view it's an increase, but it's also a big loss," Hajali said.

The big sellers in the shop are mugs, magnets, keyrings and T-shirts, she explained. "Anything with an image of [the Queen]," she said.

Hajali said she hoped the things Cool Britannia sold would bring the buyers comfort. 

"We are allowing people to have a little bit of that memory," the 50-year-old said. "It's not just British people. It's people from all over the world."

Flowers as a tribute

Business was also up at the Buckingham Palace Road flagship shop of Pulbrook & Gould, a luxury florist with longstanding royal connections.

People are buying lots of roses and lilies to lay down outside the palace, Erik Karlsen, the manager said. Many were also choosing garden flowers as a tribute. "Mainly because of the Queen's devotion to the English countryside and her love of flowers and gardens," the 63-year-old told DW.

Florist behind counter
The store also expected to provide flowers for the funeralImage: Ella Joyner/DW

One customer at the florist was a 54-year-old man who had come to London with his teenage daughter. The pair weren't too impressed with Pulbrook & Gould prices though. Stems were being sold for 10 pounds each (€11.55) and the would-be customer joked that there could be a touch of "profiteering” afoot.

Store manager Karlsen said he expected some commissions from the royal household ahead of the funeral. Pulbrook & Gould has done a number of weddings and state occasions over the years, he explained.

He himself was of aristocratic German lineage, his full name being Erik Karlsen von Wettin. "Only by descent," he stressed. Any chance he could be a distant cousin of Elizabeth's? "No, none at all," he said wryly.

Hotel bookings are surging

Further down the road, watching over the crowds was the head concierge of upmarket hotel, The Rubens. They had seen a surge in bookings on Friday, the day after Elizabeth's death, Joan Goncalves, 63 and originally from Portugal. said. "Everybody's coming to London," he told DW.

Three porters outside a hotel entrance
Hotels are expecting to be full in time for the Queen's funeralImage: Ella Joyner/DW

Back down the road at Cool Britannia, Hajali said King Charles III merchandise had been ordered and should arrive on the shop floor by Wednesday. However she didn't expect this stock to sell nearly as well as the Elizabeth II trinkets. There hadn't been many requests for items with the new King's picture on so far, she noted.

Hajali said she was hopeful for Charles' reign. But would he ever sell as many mugs as his mother?

"I don't think so," the store manager said. "She had the opportunity to be our Queen for many, many years."

Edited by: Cathrin Schaer