LONDON -- A new British catalog business is betting that despite rumors, scandals and marital breakups, the cachet of the royal family is still powerful enough to capture Americans' attention -- and their dollars.
Beginning in September, devotees of British quality goods like Royal Doulton and Royal Brierley china and crystal will be able to order it through The House of Windsor Collection, a catalog with a royal difference. It will offer only items that have been granted a royal warrant.
The announcement of the new venture, which will operate under parent called the Eclectic American Catalog Co., Ltd., came at a champagne reception at the Ritz. Lending the enterprise the proper regal weight was Prince Michael of Kent, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and chairman of the advisory board for the collection.
Royal warrants are granted to businesses that have supplied the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales for at least three consecutive years. Each item produced by a royal warrant holder bears the relevant coat of arms and allows them to be known as suppliers or purveyors "By Appointment."
Each of the 200 businesses whose products will go into the catalog supply members of the royal family.
The collection, said Prince Michael, "made more sense to me than any idea I'd ever heard of."
The first recorded warrants were given over 800 years ago. In 1155 the Weavers Copany was granted a royal charter by King Henry II. Royal appointments were given to such diverse professions as the regal rat catcher and the court pin maker. A royal crest was given to Mr. Thomas Hewytt by Henry VIII "to serve the court with Swannes and Cranes and all kinds of Wildfoule."
The announcement of the collection coincided with the launching of the "North America Now" campaign, a Department of Trade and Industry plan to "radically improve the UK's share of the [U.S.] market." With a budget of $375,000 in the first year, this will be the "first-ever service to facilitate alliances between the UK and North American firms," said Michael Heseltine, president of the Board of Trade.
The up-scale House of Windsor Collection will mail 4 million catalogs in its first year. Mailing lists will be based on the buying habits of well-heeled Americans. Projected sales after five years are $104 million.
Forty per cent of Americans shop through catalogs and there are 2,000catalogs in the United States. The House of Windsor intends to join the 10 catalogs at the top end of the market.
Floris, the English flower perfumier established in 1730, has two royal warrants, from the Queen and the Prince of Wales. It has 17 fragrances in a selection of products, the most popular being Lily of the Valley and Edwardian Bouquet.
Hugh Holland, managing director of Weatherill Limited, is "very pleased" at its inclusion in the catalog. The company, which has supplied goods to every monarch since the late 19th century, will be providing gentlemen's accessories such as braces and blazer buttons.
More important than making money, said Mr. Holland, was the Windsor collection's "very prestigious public profile."
If it's cuff links you want, then Longmire's of St. James is the specialist. With three royal warrants, its supplies clients around the world.
The collection intends to provide a first-class service with two-day delivery.