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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Could St George boost business?
By James Clarke
BBC News, England

St George fights the dragon in a BBC television programme from 1950
St George killed a dragon but his value to business is still in question
The failure to celebrate St George's Day with the same enthusiasm as St Patrick's Day could see English firms missing out on millions of pounds, groups promoting the anniversary have claimed.

But business experts seem less sure, suggesting that if huge opportunities to make a fortune on 23 April existed they would have been taken already.

The Value of St George Campaign - which aims to make firms realise the benefits of marking the saint's day - said that while celebrations were increasing, much more could be done.

A study carried out for the campaign concluded that firms across England were missing out on nearly 40m a year by not celebrating the day as much as their Irish counterparts.

'So much negativity'

It suggested pubs should encourage more customers to spend money celebrating, while other businesses could be selling items related to the day.

The report for the Value of St George Campaign was carried out by the Future Foundation, an organisation which aims to make businesses better understand their customers' wants and needs.

It concluded firms across England could make an extra 38.8m annually by doing more to mark the day, with pubs alone missing out on 14m every April by not encouraging customers to celebrate the event as they would St Patrick's Day.

St George's Day party in EastEnders
The Queen Vic in EastEnders is one pub which has marked the big day

The study was carried out in 2004, but campaign spokeswoman Sarah McGhie said its findings were still valid.

She said some people had been wary of marking the day because of perceived negative connotations attached to some forms of English patriotism.

She said: "Now it really isn't as bad as it used to be, but it's a difficult thing to overcome, to make people realise we're not trying to do the wrong thing.

"The campaign started back in 1998 from a conversation about how English people move heaven and earth to go into a pub on St Patrick's Day, yet if you asked people when St George's Day was they didn't know.

"At first licensees and the media thought we were absolutely bonkers but we felt there was a massive imbalance there and a big opportunity."

If there was a lot of money to be made out of it, businesses would probably already be doing it
Federation of Small Businesses spokesman

A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said it was true that some companies did not exploit the day, but said they could be right to do so.

He said: "Businesses are in the main very good at responding to the needs and demands of their customers.

"So if they're not doing anything for St George's Day it could be that they don't think there's a market for it out there.

"We would obviously advise any businesses to maximise their opportunities but on the other hand I think if there was a lot of money to be made out of it, businesses would probably already be doing it."

Ms McGhie told BBC News she felt celebrations of St George's Day were becoming more common but could still expand further.

St George's Day cards in a shop
Not necessarily a familiar sight...

A Google internet search for "St Patrick's Day" generates nearly 50 times as many results as a search for "St George's Day", suggesting the Irish saint's day still sparks more interest.

And a trip to 10 shops selling greetings cards in Birmingham city centre, a week before St George's Day, found only two with any St George's Day cards on sale.

Another shop had a big display of St George's cross flags but under a banner saying "Get ready for the World Cup" - suggesting it expected the flags to be waved more vigorously in June than April and in praise of "St Wayne" rather than St George.

But John Clemence, chairman of the Royal Society of St George, which promotes itself as "the premier patriotic society of England" said he believed events like the World Cup could help English people feel at ease about showing pride in their country.

'Bunting comes out'

He said: "The World Cup will produce lots and lots of flags again.

"And at the Commonwealth Games it was a sort of a lesson, that everybody of whatever colour or creed wrapped themselves in the flag of St George."

Ms McGhie agreed people wanted to be proud of being English - which in turn could benefit firms wanting to make money by helping them celebrate.

She said: "People want to be patriotic and St George's Day gives them the chance to be patriotic.

"I feel very strongly that St George's Day is growing from the grass roots up."




SEE ALSO:
Landlord loses St George battle
28 Nov 05 |  Norfolk
English 'should reclaim identity'
22 Nov 05 |  North Yorkshire
St George's events 'not enough'
23 Apr 05 |  London
Council lifts shopkeeper flag ban
20 Apr 05 |  Merseyside


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