Royal baby: Retailers ready to cash in

There's nothing like a royal baby to lift a nation's spirits - and those of its retailers, who are hoping to cash in on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's new arrival this month.

It wasn't long after the pregnant Duchess was admitted to hospital with morning sickness in December that one enterprising designer starting selling royal sick bags. But that was just the beginning.

With the new heir now expected within days, retailers have put a royal spin on everything from biscuits to books and have stocked up on commemorative mugs, key rings and plates.

Even the Duchess' parents appear to have got in on the act - the Middletons' Party Pieces online business is showcasing as "new" a range of "I'm a Princess" party cups, plates and napkins.

There is no shortage of baby products with a royal theme, from leading British firm Mothercare's romper suits for a "Prince in Training" to blankets and even bibs adorned with crowns.

If they aren't to your taste, one company has published a book of sewing patterns for traditional bonnets, booties and christening gowns suitable for a future monarch.

The upmarket London hotel Grosvenor House has taken it further with a bespoke nursery suite designed "with a royal baby in mind" by the boutique that furnished Prince William's childhood bedroom.

Costing £2300 ($4430) a night, the rooms contain handcrafted and painted furniture, including a bassinet equipped with a regal coronet and canopy.

The ivory colour scheme may be impractical for babies, but for that kind of money, you would hope someone else would clean up.

The new baby, like the Queen's jubilee last year and the royal wedding in 2011, offers a welcome boost for an industry suffering the fallout of the global economic crisis.

"These kind of events lead to a temporary feel-good lift. It will really help to boost particular brands and products," said Mandy Murphy, a spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium.

The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) estimates that £80 million will be spent this year on royal baby toys and products, and £76 million on books, DVDs and other media related to the royal family.

Publishers have rushed out a slew of children's books about fictional pregnant princesses, the newborn's crying that might wake up the Queen, and even a history of the nappies used to cover royal babies' bottoms.

Mills & Boon has a special release unimaginatively entitled Royal Baby, with the tagline: The prince demands an heir ... and what he wants, he gets!

With an eye to those inevitable sleepless nights, several albums are on sale promising to soothe even the most fractious royal heir with classical music and traditional lullabies.

- AFP

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