The UK Economy Needs a Pick-Me-Up.  Is Coronation Enough?

The Dawn Anchor, who runs a pub in the village of Kings Worthy, about 60 miles southwest of London, has everything she needs: reams of red, white and blue bunting, mini Union Jack flags and life-sized cardboard cutouts of King Charles III.

This weekend's coronation of England's new king has been a reward for its founding, one of only a handful of pubs in England to be called The King Charles.

And like many business people who have experienced the British economic downturn, Ms. Anchor hopes the coronation will bring some much-needed cheer (and sales).

At The King Charles, festivities will kick off on Friday with 17 hours a day, serving breakfast through dinner, with afternoon tea in between. Fuller's Coronation King's Ale, a special edition bitter, will be available and will likely contribute to the approximately 17 million additional pints expected to be poured across the country over the three-day weekend, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

Celebrations in pubs go beyond the traditional English hobby of drinking. Also planned: a cake competition, a dog show, horse-drawn carriage rides, choir singing and other musical performances.

“I look forward to a big increase” in customers, said Ms. Anchor. But more importantly, he said, the weekend was an opportunity to “show what we do,” and entice people to keep coming after the coronation flag was pulled.

“It's all about what people might do afterwards,” he said.

The state – both businesses and households – can use time off. For most of last year, the UK economy has been stagnant. Its inflation rate is the highest in Western Europe, food prices are about 20 percent higher than last year and households are feeling the cold grip of a deep cost-of-living crisis.

Energy bills at The King Charles have more than doubled and food prices have soared. Increasing customer numbers, for example by reducing food prices on off-peak days, has been the only way the pub has been able to fight off soaring costs. Business is doing well, said Ms. Anchor, but the efforts to draw people to the pub are unstoppable. Coronation weekend is an opportunity not to be missed.

The hospitality industry, in particular, will benefit this weekend, including a public holiday on Monday. UKHospitality, a trade group, estimates business will generate an additional £350 million ($437 million) as hotels fill and pubs will be allowed to stay open later. Businesses hope the coronation will spark a boost in consumer confidence, but the celebrations are unlikely to fundamentally change the UK economy.

“The overall impact will probably be very small – it could be positive, it could be negative,” said Stephen Millard, deputy director at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Public holidays tend to reduce economic output as offices, factories and many other workplaces are closed for the day, even as tourism and hospitality activity increases. Platinum Jubilee weekend last June, which celebrated Queen Elizabeth II's 70th anniversary on the throne and included an additional holiday, had little bearing on the quarterly economic growth data.

“The overall picture is going to be very sluggish growth this year, I don't think that will change – crowning or not,” added Mr Millard. Britain may avoid a recession this year as the economy is doing slightly better than expected, but what the economy needs is a rapid slowdown in inflation and increased public investment in critical sectors such as health, education and infrastructure, he said.

But a coronation can boost self-confidence, says Mr. Millard. “The economy could do with a little improvement.”

The last coronation, in 1953, was also expected to bring relief. The economy is still recovering from the Second World War. There are intimate celebrations, including processions and street parties. Sugar rations are still in place, though relaxed slightly to help people enjoy the festivities, according to the UK Parliament's website.

Seventy years later, cakes and other treats are the centerpiece of the celebrations. The food retailer sells coronation-themed cakes, biscuits and other items. The Retail Research Center estimates that more than £130 million will be spent on food and party goods, and another £245 million on souvenirs and other memorabilia. Sales will be a boon for retailers because for nearly the last two years, sales volumes have fallen, as high prices forced people to cut back.

However, coronation weekend is not expected to be as big as Platinum Jubilee, said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality. But May brings two other holidays and the Eurovision Song Contest, this year based in Liverpool, and soon to be followed by the final of the FA Cup, a popular football tournament.

“There is something for everyone and we look forward to starting to build back on that momentum and rebuild consumer confidence,” said Ms. Nicolls.

“It's been a long, slow road to recovery” since the pandemic, he said, noting higher energy bills and other costs and staffing challenges.

Brigit's Bakery in central London takes advantage of extra tourism. It decked out one of its double-decker buses, which served afternoon tea on the go, in coronation-themed decor. Three times a day for about a month, a bus tour of the coronation will pass London's top tourist attractions, such as moving billboards.

The coronation “generated a huge cash inflow into the central London business, and we were able to make some of those profits,” said Mehran Sahabi, director of operations at the bakery.

This would be a welcome boost as bakeries have watched the prices of their staples – namely flour and butter – skyrocket.

For travelers with deeper pockets, Hotel Cafe Royal offers packages that include a private tour of the Tower of London and a look at the Crown Jewels after hours. Starting price: £12,995.

That the excursion has been put together by Linda Hugo, who has been designing exclusive royal-themed experiences for years. Since he started his company, Beyond Curated, in 2019, he has had to navigate his business through the pandemic lockdown. He hopes that this coronation will be the start of an increase in business and tourism throughout the year; he was already thinking of new themes inspired by the king's interests, such as botany.

“The start of the year has been a little quieter than I expected,” said Ms. Hugo. “Even though it's increased significantly now, I think we may still not see as much international excitement around the coronation as we might have hoped.”

He expects some people to want to avoid the crowds and will visit London after the festivities.

Back at The King Charles pub in Kings Worthy, there is also hope that this is just the beginning. This weekend's pub goers will be greeted with billboards advertising upcoming events, including the “Romeo and Juliet” outdoor show.

“It is the start of summer for us,” said Ms. Anchor.