‘It’s like there’s no cost of living crisis’: visitors splash out at Wimbledon | Wimbledon 2023

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A young, smartly dressed man is walking through the well-manicured grounds of Wimbledon, carefully carrying a couple of championship-branded plastic glasses and two half bottles of champagne. They are covered by tennis ball sleeves.

When asked how much they cost, he stops. “I don’t know, actually,” he says. He looks at the credit card receipt: £92. “Well, it’s champagne,” he shrugs. “At an event like this, that isn’t bad.”

In the rest of the UK, a cost of living crisis rages on. Inflation is at 8.7%, the cost of mortgages and rents are spiralling, food banks are helping record numbers of people. You wouldn’t know it in SW19.

The first day of the competition was its busiest since 2015. Its Wimbledon Collection products have had record-breaking sales every day of the championships this year, onsite and offline, organisers told the Guardian.

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Boosted by spreads in Tatler and Vogue, as well as by influencers who have promoted Wimbledon’s clothing range for the first time in its 146-year history, many of its semi-formal clothing lines are expected to sell out before the men’s singles final on Sunday.

A member of the public drinks champagne at the All England Tennis club in Wimbledon.
A member of the public drinks champagne at the All England Tennis club in Wimbledon. Photograph: Sébastien Bozon/AFP/Getty

Maybe the classic British summer weather has helped. Sales staff at the shop reported long queues at its main store when rain stopped play, and more than 6,000 umbrellas (£55 for a golf, £24 for a mini) have been sold in the grounds so far. For the first time, online sales of the new fuchsia pink player towel – yours for £39 – have begun to outsell the classic green and purple version.

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The food and drink areas of the grounds have also been heaving – despite rocketing inflation being very much in evidence. At the bar a glass of Pimm’s will set you back £11.20, up from £9.70 last year, while a pint costs £7.55, up from £6.50.

Carrying four large glasses of Pimm’s to share with his friend, Arnav Shah, who has come to Wimbledon from India to watch the tennis, isn’t complaining. “It’s Wimbledon – you can’t beat it,” he says. “It’s expensive for sure, but you sacrifice things to come here and it’s worth it.”

If you don’t want to spend £4.80 on a sausage roll, finer products are available at the Centenary Seafood Bar, where you can buy caviar for £30, or a platter of hand-carved Devon crab and salmon and cream cheese roulade for £70.

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Maybe that’s why some staff reported seeing visitors reaching for reusable cups in their drop-off bins – in order to reclaim the £1 deposit that others had donated to charity.

“It’s ridiculous, honestly,” says one uniformed worker, who does not want to be named. “There’s champagne everywhere. I hear a lot of people complaining about the prices, but they still pay it.”

Currently the cheapest seats for the Sunday’s men’s singles final are trading at £5,242 on secondary ticketing sites; the women’s final seems a relative bargain at £4,037.

To avoid the faff, keen – and very rich – tennis fans can opt for a debenture. Costing £80,000 – which is used by the All England Club to finance capital expenditure – debenture holders get a premium seat on Centre Court or No 1 Court for five years, and “access to the exclusive Debenture lounges on Centre Court and Court No 1 for a truly unique tennis experience”.

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Two women enjoy strawberries on a bench at Wimbledon.
Two women enjoy strawberries and cream, which remain at an inflation-busting £2.50. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

But Wimbledon organisers stress that the tournament still offers good value for money, compared with other big sporting events. The democratic queueing system (which was criticised this year after extra security resulted in long waits and grumpy clientele) means attendees can get a whole day of top-quality tennis for £27.

The resale of show courts tickets later in the day gives patient queuers a close-up view of the best tennis stars for £10 to £ 15 a ticket, the proceeds of which are donated to charity. Wimbledon, repeatedly, points to the fact that strawberries and cream – synonymous with the competition – remain at an inflation-busting £2.50, the same price as 12 years ago. Possibly why it sells 1.92m of the berries every year.

Unlike most other events, visitors can also bring in a picnic and a bottle of wine in a soft-sided bag. Siting on Henman Hill in the sunshine this week, Kate Mayers and her friend Nicola Clark are making good use of that rule, sipping prosecco out of goldfish bowl-sized glasses.

“I’m shocked at the number of people buying their lunch here,” says Mayers. “I mean, look around. It’s like there is no cost of living crisis happening here at all.”

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