‘Downton Abbey’ enters merchandise fray

“Downton Abbey” actresses Sophie McShera (right) and Phyllis Logan took part in a panel discussion about the show as part of a press tour in Beverly Hills, California.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
“Downton Abbey” actresses Sophie McShera (right) and Phyllis Logan took part in a panel discussion about the show as part of a press tour in Beverly Hills, California.

LONDON — Forget ‘‘Mad Men’’ modernism. This season’s style is all about the Edwardian opulence of ‘‘Downton Abbey.”

Since it premiered in 2010, the series about the family and servants of a grand English house in the 1910s and 1920s has become a television juggernaut, sold to 220 territories around the world.

The program’s makers have arguably been slow to exploit the commercial potential of that popularity through merchandising, selling little more than DVD sets, wall calendars, and desk diaries. But that is about to change. Along with the fourth season, starting on British TV next month and on PBS in January, comes a range of merchandise that includes a board game, homewares, clothes, and even wine.


All in the best possible taste, of course.

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‘‘We haven’t rushed into it,’’ executive producer Gareth Neame said. ‘‘We don’t want to carpet bomb the retail sector.’’

In keeping with the program’s posh-frothy image, the products being rolled out aim to be quirky rather than kitschy.

This fall, British retail chain Marks & Spencer will be selling a ‘‘Downton Abbey’’ beauty line, including soap, nail polish, lotion, and scented candles.

‘‘Downton’’ merchandising in the United States and Canada is handled by Knockout Licensing, which has struck deals for a jewelry line from Danbury Mint and ‘‘Downton”-themed Christmas ornaments from Kurt Adler — both going on sale later this year.


It also has a licensing agreement with figurine manufacturer Bradford Exchange, raising fans’ hopes for a range of ‘‘Downton’’ dolls.

North American fans also can soon drink ‘‘Downton Abbey’’ wine, marketed by Wines That Rock, the California company behind Rolling Stones’ 40 Licks Merlot and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. The ‘‘Downton’’ red is a genteel departure for the firm, a French claret reminiscent of those favored by the early 1900s British aristocracy.

Cele Otnes, a professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says the richly detailed world of ‘‘Downton Abbey’’ is key to viewers’ bond with the show.

She likens it to ‘‘Mad Men’’ — ‘‘It’s not just a television program, it’s really an aesthetic’’ — and cites reported rises in sales of cravats, waistcoats, and sherry as evidence of a ‘‘Downton”-driven appetite for Edwardian elegance.

‘‘It’s that whole thing about presenting a lifestyle,’’ she said. ‘‘We get in the house, we get inside these characters’ lives. We see inside their bedrooms, their bathrooms, their kitchens. We can absorb ourselves not only in the story, which is compelling, but in the details of their lives.’’


No detail is too small for emulation — Mylands, the London-based paint company that supplies the show with historically accurate pigments, recently began marketing two of its ‘‘Downton’’ tones to the public: Amber Gray, the color of the downstairs kitchen overseen by cook Mrs. Patmore, and Empire Gray, which adorns Mr. Carson’s butler’s pantry.

These are not just any grays. They are ‘‘Downton’’ grays.

When asked about the risks of “over-marketing” the show, Neame said he isn’t worried.

‘‘When a show is this global and this loved, I don’t see any problem with offering products to hardened fans who want to extend their relationship with the show that they love,” he said.