Should everything go ‘bottoms up’ for our current heir apparent, he could definitely make it as a retailer. I’m not talking about the Duchy Originals brand, although heaven knows that’s been successful enough, I’m talking about the Highgrove range, which I saw first hand at the pop up Christmas Shop at Clarence House last week. Yes you did read that right, Prince Charles had an invitation-only Christmas pop up in his back lounge (well, it extended into a tent in the back garden too) and thanks to TWR reader Cilla, I was invited along ( I wasn’t allowed to tweet, it nearly KILLED me).
It was SOOO exciting, we lined up next to the chaps with the bearskin hats and were marched into the main hall (two children’s heirloom wheelbarrows as decoration in the porch, William and Harry’s maybe?) where we marvelled at the art and then headed into the lounge (piano in the corner, picture frames of the whole family covering it) for some champagne with a Highgrove crest on the glass. I can take or leave the Royal Family (although I adore the Queen and am growing fond of Camilla) but the thrill of being in a living Royal household made me quite overcome with excitement.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the decorations, dark wood panelling and lots of paintings of horses and jockeys, you could quite imagine the Queen Mother (whose house this used to be for so long) tripping along the hallway clutching a G&T and the Racing Times. The sofas were covered in a distressed gold satin, with lots of well used cushions over it, There was a sense of ageless, expensive quality but without any hint of modern style or trend, it was truly Aristo-Chic.
As well as impressing us with his London interiors, HRH then showed us how he can rock a retail pop-up. There were branded hampers, a table full of Christmas decorations embellished with his three feather fleur-de-lys badge (that’s a hell of a brand logo), notebooks using hides from deer culled on the Highgrove estate, smart luggage made from Prince of Wales check, teapots and mugs painted with rare breeds of chickens and cows, as well as a mean looking organic sloe gin.
All of this was masterfully merchandised by someone who knows how to tempt. The packaging is nice, most things come in boxes (the Christmas decs have limited edition numbers on a small certificate) and those feathers add a touch of class. The product is modern and relevant (well, ok, not everyone needs a leather and tweed flask and nip cups) in a way that National Trust shop products often aren’t. Honestly, the man is good at this.
Our little group pretty much stripped the place. We bought Christmas decs, candles (good cinnamony-Christmas smell) and the giant boxes of matches (could there be a better present for Royalists with a fire to light?). It was reasonably priced for what it was too,the matches are £6.95, the gold Christmas candle is £16, try buying one from Jo Malone for that. The santa tree dec was £7.95 and the limited edition embroidered Christmas dec (above top) was £14.95.
As a retail hack, I was impressed with the way HRH exploited his surroundings for profit from an excitedly compliant crowd (we all bought more than we planned to) and all those profits go to the Prince’s many charities, so it’s a clever concept.
There are two Highgrove shops (Bath and Tetbury) and the Christmas shop is running currently on the Highgrove estate, but you need to book to go, all the details and products are on the website here