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Why the royal wedding is a gift for the UK economy

Saturday's wedding between Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle has provided a much-needed boost for Britain’s economy during the uncertainty of its separation from the European Union. From those hawking commemorative knickknacks to the cucumber industry, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant explains what the windfall means for the U.K.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You have no doubt heard a word or two this week about a small get-together tomorrow in an old castle outside London.

    Well, for many in post-Brexit Britain, the pomp and pageantry of the royal wedding that will unite Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle is a reassuring balm in uncertain times.

    And for an economy that could use a boost, it is looking like the wedding, and the industry built around it, could be worth a princely sum.

    So, we sent our Europe-based economics and garden party correspondent, Malcolm Brabant, to Windsor on this hardship assignment.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    In class-obsessed Britain, there is no greater social cache than having one's face emblazoned across kitsch.

    If Meghan Markle ever doubts her newfound status, confirmation comes from plastic bags, tea towels, commemorative plates and mugs, and the smile on the face of shopkeeper Maklet Sinolsha (ph).

  • MAN:

    Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody getting ready for wedding.

  • WOMAN:

    We have got a little bell. Tom likes bells. And it's just for the — nice to keep.

    Oh, things are going very great now. It's more than what we were expecting. All the wedding stuff is going like hot cakes.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The memorabilia takes on a slightly more expensive hue further along the street opposite Windsor Castle. What's consistent is the enthusiasm.

    Shop assistant Alice Cairns:

  • ALICE CAIRNS, Shop Assistant:

    It's a big deal. I think there's very few people that are untouched by the wedding. It feels very special. There's a huge buzz. We have been talking about it for months, really.

    People are flooding in. We have sold out of loads of our products. We have sold out of all our china range. Also, I say people with houses overlooking the procession route, they're kind of putting them on Airbnb or kind of Booking.com and making thousands with that.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    In common with other Windsor folk, hotel concierge Tom Felmingham has become a wedding economy analyst. He revealed that there's been some price-gouging, or what his bosses might prefer to describe as an application of the laws of supply and demand.

  • TOM FELMINGHAM, Hotel Concierge:

    We have got three or four big hotels in Windsor obviously vying for the room sales. And some of these rooms are going for like thousands of pounds a night. And, originally, they're like 100, 200 pounds.

    But, yes, so it's a massive, massive increase on us, on the business and everything. So it's really booming because of it, and it's just a really happy occasion.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Outside the castle, where the wedding will take place, some visitors from Ohio were caught up in the good vibrations.

  • DEBBIE GARR, Ohio Resident:

    Just buying some memorabilia, but I think it's a very exciting time for England. I really do.

  • KAREN ARNOLD, Surgical Technician:

    Number one, it's memorabilia, and it's history being made. And I happen to like Meghan Markle. It does give me pride, but it's not just the fact that she's from an African-American background. But she represents the people, period, Americans and, I assume, British as well.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    But Markle's social elevation is regarded differently 30 miles from Windsor, in Brixton, a district of London whose residents have a predominantly Afro-Caribbean heritage.

    Jackie Otimpong is a teacher.

  • JACKIE OTIMPONG, Teacher:

    I would say it's a breakthrough in life, because that is the highest place any black person could ever get to when it comes to marriage. It wouldn't change a thing.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Because?

  • JACKIE OTIMPONG:

    Because they are in our world, and we are in our world. There is not going to be a crossfire. They will there. We will always look up to them. And we will always be in Brixton doing our local thing. In their world, it's a perfect world. But, in our world, we are struggling.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Ever since Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, the government has been using the royal family abroad to bolster the nation's image as being distinctive.

    And so, in this time of Brexit, the royal wedding is a windfall for an economy that appears to be stagnating at present. And it isn't just Windsor here that's benefiting. According to one bridal Web site, during the wedding, there will be 8,000 street parties up and down the country, at which 1.5 million cucumber sandwiches will be devoured.

    So it's safe to say that this is a moment of unrestrained joy in the British cucumber industry, not to mention in boardrooms around the country, because the numbers have surprised the experts.

    David Haigh runs a consultancy that specializes in estimating the worth of a brand and evaluating intangible assets.

  • DAVID HAIGH, Brand Finance:

    The reality is that, since it was announced, there's been an absolute frenzy. When we first looked at the impact of the wedding on the U.K. economy, we estimated that it would have about $700 million worth of beneficial effect. We have now doubled that. We think it's about $1.4 billion.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Haigh says that a considerable portion of those earnings will come from tourism. About 50 million people visit the U.K. each year, and Haigh estimates that the wedding will draw in an additional 350,000 tourists, each spending on average of between $1,000 and $2,000.

    This is music to the ears of Patricia Yates, who heads VisitBritain, the authority responsible for marketing the country as it enters Brexit territory.

  • PATRICIA YATES, VisitBritain:

    We need to make sure that people come now. History and heritage will be here in 10 years' time, so I think the attraction of an event like this, it is about romance, and it brings that royal story to a newer and younger audience, who are the people that are traveling worldwide.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    So far this year, as Britain's divorce from Europe approaches, retail spending and consumer confidence have been jittery, according to shopping expert Diane Wehrle, who expects a wedding-related flip.

  • DIANE WEHRLE, Springboard Research:

    Retail is a very emotive sector. It relies on our emotions and our wants and our feel-good factor. So what the royal wedding does is create feel-good. And so it adds buoyancy to a market. It adds good feeling.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The fascination with the British upper crust is understood by Sophia Money-Coutts, daughter of an aristocratic family famous in the U.K. for being the royal bankers.

  • SOPHIA MONEY-COUTTS, Social Commentator:

    There's a huge amount of love for Harry. And I think for the past few years, there's been a lot of pressure on Harry. When he's going to settle down? Oh, he's the last of his friends to get married. When's it going to be his turn?

    And I think that's why there is such excitement, that he's very clearly in love, completely head over heels with Meghan. And so people are just thrilled for them. They're just really, really pleased and excited about the big day.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The festivities in Windsor outrage British Republicans, who argue that the monarchy is a corrupt institution.

    The royal family costs the taxpayer about $50 million a year. Their defenders claim the additional earnings they generate is a compelling economic argument for sticking with the crown.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Windsor.

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