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Monday, July 22, 2013

Books, Brioche and Baby Clothes: The Royal Merchandise

Lydia Leith, a British designer, created items to commemorate the birth of the royal baby.Getty Images Lydia Leith, a British designer, created items to commemorate the birth of the royal baby.

LONDON â€" British retailers, hotels and ceramic factories are betting on the arrival of the royal baby to improve the otherwise gloomy economic situation.

Dave Lockett, the owner of Edwardian China, a pottery manufacturer, said his company would paint the name and date of birth of the new royal on more than 10,000 commemorative plates and other ceramics that were prepared weeks ago.

“We made them pretty generic so that it could be either a boy or girl,” said Mr. Lockett, hired extra staff to cope with the order load. “Then it was just a matter of waiting for the big day.”

Britons are expected to spend more than £243 million (or $420 million) on merchandise, other goods and party food in July and August to celebrate the royal baby, according to the Center for Retail Research. That would compare with £163 million spent on souvenirs alone for William and Kate’s wedding in April 2011.

Not knowing the name or gender of the royal baby has not prevented retailers from already selling royalty-inspired teacups, baby clothes and sweets. The department store Harrods has been selling a cup and a plate with the gender-neutral message “The first baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 2013.” One online retailer is selling a royal baby pacifier while another is promoting a purple velvet diaper cover by saying that it was “inspired by royalty” and that “pretty soon Kate and William will be sleep deprived, too.”

Krispy Kreme is selling doughnuts with white baby feet glazing, and Roberts Bakery, a British family-owned brand, created a special brioche for the occasion. The loaves, with a gold leaf crust and dried apricots, glazed cherries and pineapple inside, costs £30 each to produce, the company says, and will be given away to 50 winners of a contest once the baby is born.

Bookstores are also hoping for some royal help. “Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby,” by Martha Mumford, tells the story of a baby who just cannot fall asleep in the hustle and bustle of Buckingham Palace.

Benedetta Fullin, marketing manager at St. James’s Hotel in London, said the hotel’s special offer for royal baby showers has been “very popular, with about two baby showers thrown per week so far this month.” The offer includes a Ralph Lauren gift voucher and a spa treatment for mothers-to-be.

For £10,089 for three nights, new parents can stay in the nursery suite at Marriott’s Grosvenor House hotel in London. “Designed with a royal baby in mind,” the hotel says the package includes one evening of child minding and a “dedicated baby concierge” to deal with emergencies such as extra nappies.

But not everyone has been as excited about the arrival of the royal baby. About 82 percent of Britons don’t plan to celebrate the infant’s arrival in any way, according to a poll of more than 8,000 people by Kantar Retail. “We fear that projections of a robust boost to the retail sector arising from the birth might be wide of the mark,” Kantar said, adding that the amount of 2012 London Olympics merchandise that remained unsold “suggests that British shoppers might be suffering from event fatigue.”

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said that even if consumers fail to flock in large numbers to buy baby merchandise, the royal baby - like the recent sunny weather here - might still help Britain’s economy by making consumers feel better. “The temporary lift in the general mood helps,” she said.