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British retailers expect royal baby sales bump

Leisha Santorelli May 7, 2019
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In this file photo taken on October 31, 2018 Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for a public walkabout at the Rotorua Government Gardens in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Michael Bradley - Pool/Getty Images

The baby watch has ended and … it’s a boy!

The Duchess of Sussex, better known as Meghan Markle, yesterday gave birth to the British monarchy’s first mixed-race child. Retailers around the country are set to see their cash registers ring amid the celebrations.

Meghan, 37, went into labor in the early hours of Monday morning with Prince Harry, 34, by her side, according to Buckingham Palace. Their son’s name has yet to be released and it is unclear if he will receive a royal title.

Prince Harry and the former actress moved into their renovated home Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Estate at the beginning of April to prepare for their baby's arrival.
Prince Harry and the former actress moved into their renovated home Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Estate at the beginning of April to prepare for their baby’s arrival.

The new arrival will be the seventh in line to the British throne, behind the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and his three children, as well as his father the Duke of Sussex. The highly-anticipated birth of “Baby Sussex” is likely to spur demand in the U.S. for more British products, given his parents’ popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.

The royal family is one of Britain’s biggest brands and was estimated to be worth around $88 billion in 2017. According to a report by global valuation firm Brand Finance, this is due to “tangible” earnings from the Crown Estate, “as well as the monarchy’s indirect effect on various industries, such as tourism, trade, media and arts.”

The “intangible” benefits also stem from “royal warrants and coats of arms, benefits enjoyed by charities and institutions under royal patronage, the advertising value of extra coverage for Brand Britain in global media, and the commercial boost experienced by British brands informally endorsed by members of the royal family.”

“The economic benefits generated by the Monarchy come at a very low expense to the British nation, equal to only £4.50 ($6) per person per year or just over one pence a day,” the report said. In comparison, Brand Finance projects that each of the royal children will generate billions of dollars in value for the U.K. economy during their lifetimes.

Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Britain's Prince George of Cambridge hold hands with their father, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, as Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge is carried by his mother, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge after his christening service at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, London on July 9, 2018.
Britain’s Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Britain’s Prince George of Cambridge hold hands with their father, Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, as Britain’s Prince Louis of Cambridge is carried by his mother, Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge after his christening service at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, London on July 9, 2018.

However, it is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby that has generated perhaps the most buzz, starting long before he was born. British bookmakers had to close or suspend some betting pools on the baby’s name and gender due to overwhelming interest. As this article goes to publication, bets are still being made on its name, with Arthur, James and Alexander leading the way.

Royal baby effect

Londoner Daniel Price co-founded the personalized baby gifting service My 1st Years nearly a decade ago and is currently expanding into the U.S., which he calls a “tough market.” His company gained global recognition after a picture of Prince George meeting former President Obama, while dressed in one of their robes, went viral.

Former US President Barack Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and former First Lady Michelle Obama talk with Prince George at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London.
Former US President Barack Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and former First Lady Michelle Obama talk with Prince George at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London.

“We sold out of that product within seven minutes of it going online,” Price said. “We sold as many as one per second right at the beginning. This had a massive global impact for the brand. The U.S. resonated with the brand more than any other country. That’s when we thought ‘this is incredible — the effect of the royal baby is amazing, and this should be the launch pad for My 1st Years.'”

He now counts top American celebrities like Beyoncé, Chrissy Teigen and some of the Kardashians among his customers.

“Meghan Markle is from the U.S. and she had a massive global reach before becoming part of the royal family,” said Price. “Everyone loves her over in the U.S., and of course everyone loves Kate Middleton, as well, but this feels like it’s on another level in terms of scale and anticipation.”

A white, personalized royal rocking chair for Princess Charlotte by My 1st Years.
A personalized royal rocking chair for Princess Charlotte by My 1st Years.

Price’s team created gifts for the birth of each of Prince William’s three children and says it has “helped the business every time.”

“Each time you see a nice lift in sales, because the whole world goes royal-baby crazy,” he said. “And everyone’s been waiting for Harry to settle down and have a baby, and I think everyone’s excited about that.”

British premium nursery brand Mamas & Papas also saw an increase in sales of children’s clothing and occasion wear following a royal birth.

“We witnessed one of the busiest weekends of the year when Prince George was born,” said Mamas & Papas marketing director, Tom Hampson. “Now, we can’t wait to see Harry and Meghan’s progressive take on parenting – we predict exciting things.”

Official merchandise released by the Royal Family to commemorate the birth sold out straight away. This included a $164 (£125) teddy bear by Merrythought. Only 100 of the handmade bears were made.

There’s more to chew on. From today, Whole Foods will start selling a commemorative cheddar cheese called ‘”Royal Addition” to mark the birth. Made in Southwest England, the Westminster Royal Mark red cheddar has been colored to match Prince Harry’s ginger hair.

But aside from cheese and teddy bears, what do you buy a child with almost everything? Companies are taking cues from Meghan and Harry’s more modern approach to parenting.

Price, at My 1st Years, said his team has been spent several months putting together a gift set for “Baby Sussex” that will include non-traditional and gender neutral items. He told me this includes some personalized Wellington boots, blankets, robes and some “really cool” personalized toys.

“The gender neutral range has been quite a big part of the business over the last couple of years,” he told me. “But we’re just scratching the surface.”

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