The royal baby is expected any day now but many of the souvenirs have arrived and there is much more to come.
From commemorative plates and teapots to T-shirts, mugs, towels, dolls, books, doughnuts, nail polish and even potties, many British businesses are hoping to cash in when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, delivers her baby, which will be third in line to the throne.
Souvenir shops around London are just starting to carry some royal baby T-shirts and trinkets, but the big push will come after the baby is born (the Duchess's due date is believed to be July 13). Photographers and television crews have already staked out positions in front of St. Mary's Hospital, where the baby will be delivered.
The London-based Centre for Retail Research estimates Britons will spend nearly $400-million on royal baby memorabilia and celebrations this summer, giving the country's struggling economy a badly needed jolt. Foreigners, particularly those in Canada, the United States and Australia, will dole out around $60-million for souvenirs, the centre added.
The baby "really comes at the right time," said the centre's director Joshua Bamfield. The popularity of Kate and Prince William should help boost sales, he added, and the birth comes at a traditionally slow time of the year for many businesses, making it even more welcome.
Some companies aren't waiting to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. Supermarket giant Tesco is already selling a baby T-shirt emblazoned with "Born to be Royal" on the front while Krispy Kreme has a come out with a line of royal baby doughnuts that have blue or pink filling inside. Fisher-Price is using the birth to flog a new line of its "royal potty" which comes with a crown on the lid, and nail care company Essie has launched a line of "Baby Blue, Baby Girl" polish.
"We're super excited for the birth of the royal baby," said CrossStitcher magazine, which offered readers ideas about how to make handcrafted cards to mark the occasion.
The Royal Family supports the many initiatives and plans to produce its own line of memorabilia. "The birth of the Duke and Duchess's baby should be a joyous occasion, and we recognize there is a long and happy history of people producing souvenirs to mark royal occasions," said a spokesman for the palace.
The gift shops at Buckingham Palace and at Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess will live, are already selling special baby sleepers and the Royal Collection Trust, which oversees the royal households, will be releasing commemorative line of china after the baby is born.
The biggest impact could come later, after the baby comes home and the couple start acquiring baby carriages, clothing and other products. The so-called "Kate effect" has already boosted sales of clothes she wears and that is expected to carry over to the couple's choice of baby items, driving up sales for the lucky companies by as much as 13 per cent, according to the Centre for Retail Research. Selected brands "can expect to see its sales rocket in what could be considered the most lucrative product endorsement of the year," said the centre.
Not everyone is convinced the royal baby will be such a godsend for businesses. Bryan Roberts, an analyst with consultants Kantar Retail, said royal babies don't generally generate big souvenir sales. Research by his firm shows that just 5 per cent of people in Britain surveyed plan to buy a souvenir and roughly 7 per cent said they will attend some kind of celebration. Britons may also be feeling some event fatigue with a royal wedding in 2011 and the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics in 2012. There are still plenty of Olympic souvenirs on sale.
"There seems to be a great deal of apathy," Mr. Roberts said, referring to the public's interest in buying something to mark the occasion. "General retailers should not expect to have their doors battered down by shoppers."