Pope souvenirs may find sales hard-going

Sales of official merchandise for the Pope’s visit to Britain could raise £3m but are likely to be dented by the economic downturn and unofficial products, marketing experts predict.

An official online store for Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit to England and Scotland from 16 to 19 September offers everything from a mug (£8) and baseball cap (£15), to rosaries (up to £30) and candles (£30). Merchandise will also be sold at stalls at Papal events.

The Papal visit has been granted a UK trademark for the image of the Papal keys and the phrase “Heart Speaks Unto Heart” which are being used on souvenirs.

But despite the global media coverage that the Pope’s visit will generate, official merchandising is only likely to generate between £2.5m to £3m, according to Neil Saunders, consulting director of Verdict Research, a retail analyst.

Only a relatively small audience is likely to buy souvenirs of the Pope’s visit, while the economic downturn has squeezed consumer spending on discretionary items, Saunders says, adding: “[However] committed Catholics do spend a lot per head on these visits because they don’t happen often.”

Chris Protheroe, executive vice-president of Copyright Promotions Licensing Group, whose brands include Bob the Builder, England Football and Elvis Presley, adds: “There will likely be tens of million of pounds in merchandising revenues, but I suspect most of this won’t be official merchandising.”

A spokeswoman for the press office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBC) declined to comment on potential merchandising revenues from the Papal visit.

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