Business

Royal baby: Britain's prince may spark retail boom

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Media captionHow are businesses benefiting from the royal baby's birth?

The "Kate effect" has made jackets sell out in hours and shoes fly off the shelf. Now her every choice - from crib to car seat - will influence the baby market and could even boost the British economy.

Already many will be looking to Britain's newest prince to see what clothes he wears and which wheels he rides in.

His birth is set to boost UK High Street sales by £243m, according to one report by the Centre for Retail Research.

This includes the champagne drunk to welcome his birth, souvenirs such as Union Flag dummies and "I love Uncle Harry" bibs, but also the effect on other mothers who may spend more in a bid to "keep up".

When the Duchess of Cambridge splashed out on a Blue Almonds £295 Moses basket, Asda saw a 57% increase in the online sales of its thriftier £35 version.

Mothers who had not thought that they needed a Moses basket suddenly had to have one.

Companies too are keen to cash in on being seen as the royals' brand of choice.

We've already seen the baby's car seat as the royal couple left the hospital with the new prince on Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the day, when the duchess's stylist and assistant were seen entering the hospital carrying the car seat, manufacturer Britax had been quick to claim in a call to the BBC that it was one of theirs.

Good enough for a prince

Image caption Suri Cruise is launching a fashion range this year, aged just seven

It is not just royalty who can influence sales. Celebrity endorsements have also pushed mothers to spend more on their babies.

Pictures of Suri Cruise and Harper Beckham spawned a market for cashmere baby suits and designer dungarees.

When Victoria Beckham selected an iCandy pushchair for Harper the company's sales ballooned.

In 2009 they were £3.6m - but within months of the Beckhams' choice sales hit £9.6m.

Coined by some as the "Harper Beckham effect", the average child's wardrobe is now worth a staggering £1,348.

Which is still a pinch when compared with the fact that Harper's shoe collection was reportedly worth almost £2,000 before her first birthday - including her £112 pair of lambskin Hermes baby booties.

Designer pushchairs - and potties

Image caption Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have just become parents

And where one celebrity has gone, so others will follow. Kim Kardashian is said to be spending an eye-watering £10,000 on her baby daughter, North.

Mind you, keeping up with the Cambridges is not going to be cheap either.

Kate has reportedly bought a Bugaboo pushchair costing nearly £1,000. Shops that stock the brand are bulk ordering before the first pictures of the British prince riding in it are released.

As most expectant mothers buy the majority of their essential baby products in the last three months of their pregnancies, the battle to stand out from the crowd is fierce.

Unlike other firms, baby product manufacturers only have a matter of weeks to get a sale.

With safety and comfort top of the list for most new parents, marketing campaigns cleverly scare and reassure in equal measure - often pushing consumers to spend more than they had budgeted for.

European and US safety standards mean that essentially your £1,000 pushchair is just as safe as the £50 version from your local High Street store.

Yet it seems a tweak in the colour scheme, adding organic fibres, and maybe some sheepskin can make some buyers part with another £950.

And it is not just pushchairs.

At the last check, a search for "potty" on Amazon produced more than 1,000 results, with prices ranging from 99p to up to £35.

Most were essentially plastic pots but, with such a range on offer, surely no self-respecting mother could possibly buy the 99p version - could they?

'Brand aware' mums

Image caption Britain's first-time mums may be older but they have more to spend

As celebrities spend more, so new parents with more modest incomes also seem to be increasing their budgets.

While the UK economy may have slowed in recent years, the luxury baby market has grown - annual sales were £6.3bn in 2010 and are expected to reach £7bn next year.

Indeed, the entire UK childrenswear market is set to grow by 6% over the next four years, according to Mintel.

The main reason is that expectant mothers are getting older and so are more likely to be in work. Since 1990 the number of first babies born to women older than 40 has tripled.

"Mothers are older and therefore more affluent when they do finally have children," says Sarah Barrett, managing editor of Babycentre.com UK.

"They are a more brand aware generation as well. To them, there is nothing wrong with spending some money on the odd spoiling item that looks good."

Looking good, baby

Image caption Supermodel Heidi Klum has just launched her own babywear collection

Of course, where there is a growing demand, so too is there a growing supply.

Stella McCartney now sells £60 bomber jackets for toddlers and Marc Jacobs sells £160 dresses, while the likes of Heidi Klum, Hugo Boss, Fendi and Ralph Lauren have also all launched babywear lines in the last few years.

And in the pushchair market, the drive for luxury has gone one step further.

Aston Martin and Silver Cross prams have collaborated to release a limited edition pushchair.

The buggy has leather and suede fittings, normally only seen in a DB9. So it might be more Kardashian than Kate, but the production run of 800 is selling fast.

And it can be yours for £1,900 - a price that may be more reminiscent of a second-hand car, but which is certainly not hindering sales.