SHAOXING, China –
Ninety minutes after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, orders for thousands of British flags began pouring in at a factory south of Shanghai.
More than 100 employees of Shaoxing Chuangdong Tour Articles Co. set aside other work and worked 14 hours a day from 7:30 a.m. to make only British-themed flags.
They turned out at least 500,000 in the first week, according to general manager Fan Aiping.
Some are British flags to be carried by mourners or hung outside homes. Others show Elizabeth’s portrait and the years of her birth and death. They range in size from 21 to 150 centimeters (8 to 59 inches) wide and sell for 7 yuan ($1).
The first customer sent an order at 3 a.m. Chinese time for tens of thousands, according to Fan. She said 20,000 the factory had in stock were sent out that morning.
“The customer came to our factory directly to pick up the products,” Fan said. “A lot of the flags weren’t even packaged. They were put in a box and shipped.”
The factory was making flags for the FIFA World Cup before Elizabeth died.
Chuangdong has been in the industry since 2005, producing flags for the World Cup and other sporting events or National Day celebrations. It also makes sports-themed scarves and banners.
Employees are attentive to news about events likely to generate orders.
“There is a business opportunity behind every news event,” Fan said.
Ni Guozhen, an employee since 2005, said she discovered the world through her work.
“I learned a lot about current events,” said Ni, who was sewing flags with the Queen’s portrait. “My knowledge has grown. So I am proud and happy to make flags.”
Ni remembers placing orders for British flags for a royal wedding.
“There is a story behind every flag,” Fan said. “This time it’s about the Queen in the UK. They’re buying these flags to mourn the Queen deeply.”