Royal Warrant holders: Companies vie for majestic sales growth and wait to hear who will be grantors

·4-min read
Chocolate company Charbonnel et Walker is a Royal Warrant holder (Charbonnel et Walker)
Chocolate company Charbonnel et Walker is a Royal Warrant holder (Charbonnel et Walker)

With the Coronation of King Charles III fast approaching one small group of companies will be watching events with particular interest and wondering what will follow: Royal Warrant holders.

They are the 800 firms and brands that supply goods or services to the Royal Household and are permitted to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business.

Such companies are part of a tradition that can be traced back to medieval times “when competition for Royal favour was intense and the Monarch had the pick of the country’s best tradespeople”, according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association’s website.

Those who acted as suppliers of goods and services to the Sovereign received formal recognition, and over the centuries the relationship between the Crown and individual tradesmen was formalised by the issue of Royal Warrants. Those that have served the Palace include an “operator for the teeth” in 1684, while 105 years later a “rat catcher” was appointed to the court.

Today there are Royal Warrant holders operating in a wide range of industries, including fashion, food and tech. There is no requirement for the company concerned to be British owned or UK-based although many on the list are, such as Burberry.

But following Queen Elizabeth II’s death last year, an automatic review is under way followed by a process for reapplying.

So just how worthwhile is it for firms, which have to demonstrate they have an appropriate environmental and sustainability policy in place, to have such a stamp of approval?

According to Helen Brocklebank, who leads luxury goods trade body Walpole, there are financial gains to be had from being a Royal Warrant holder. She points to some results from its own recent survey, which found those in the special club enjoy a 15% uplift in a purchaser’s “consideration”, meaning shoppers are more likely to want to buy it.

Meanwhile 14% of people would pay more for an upscale drinks brand that has a Royal Arms linked to it.

Brocklebank adds many firms with a strong royal connection will benefit this month as international visitors to the UK and domestic customers alike look for mementos and memorable experiences.

Galvin Weston, chairman of British-founded chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker, which was awarded The Royal Warrant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1970, agrees that such recognition can have a positive impact on sales. He thinks for tourists in particular buying his firm’s treats “signifies something very special, very British”.

The chairman says: “For our customers at home and abroad, it is definitely an indicator of luxury and a well thought out gift.”

The company, which is selling organic milk chocolate crowns to celebrate the coronation, is expected to apply to the King for a warrant.

Pamela Harper is CEO of Halcyon Days (Halcyon days)
Pamela Harper is CEO of Halcyon Days (Halcyon days)

One firm seeing a sales jump recently is English fine bone china specialist, Halcyon Days, one of only 14 companies worldwide to hold three Royal Warrants.

Chief executive Pamela Harper is “hugely encouraged by demand” for coronation products which include £110 teacup and saucer sets and a £425 presentation plate. Halcyon Days is forecasting sales of its coronation collection will reach around £1 million.

Companies also have deep satisfaction at being awarded a Royal Warrant, including electricals retailer Richer Sounds, whose chairman David Robinson says it was an honour to receive one. He says it a source of “great pride” among colleagues.

At John Lewis in Oxford Street, where a Royal Warrant was granted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2008 for the supply of haberdashery and household goods, partner Chris Payne also says the team are “proud” to work in that store. He believes it is a “real privilege and honour” to be a holder.

Given the challenges retailers are facing — from the removal of tax-free shopping for foreign tourists to soaring energy costs — anything that can potentially boost revenue, such as the regal seal of approval embodied in a Royal Warrant, will be warmly welcomed.

Which family members are ‘grantors’?

The Monarch decides who is to be a “grantor” of Royal Warrants which permit a company to display the Royal Arms in connection with their business. The King, as Prince of Wales, granted them, while Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen Mother and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh were also grantors.

In the event a grantor dies, the warrant becomes void but the “grantee” can continue to use Royal Arms for up to two years.

The system is now on hold, which happens at the change of every monarch, and the Royal Household will review existing grants, with decisions about new grantors — with the Prince and Princess of Wales being obvious candidates — part of the assessment. No date for this have been given, and firms wanting to apply for a warrant will have to wait until the review has ended. That includes firms with a warrant from the late Queen and those from the former Prince of Wales.

Under the existing model, a grantee, a named individual at a firm responsible for the correct use of the relevant Royal Arms, is initially given a warrant for up to five years, and it is reviewed in the year before it is due to expire so that a decision can be made as to whether it should be renewed.