First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a whole slew of wacky and tacky souvenirs — that is, at least when it comes to the birth of Great Britain’s newest little prince.
The wedding of Wills and Kate two years ago was a boon for businesses of all types: People visited London, raised celebratory pints in its pubs, and spent profligately on a huge variety of souvenirs and tchotchkes emblazoned with the royal mugs. There were actual mugs, plates, and other dishes, along with beer bottles and even condoms (yup, really) bearing the newlyweds’ likenesses. The British Retail Consortium estimated that people spent a collective £480 million ($737 million) celebrating the royal nuptials.
Now, there’s a similar commercial feeding frenzy under way, and no item is too weird to get the “Baby Cambridge” treatment. Along with stuff you might expect like paper dolls, pacifiers, onesies, bibs, and enough dishware to fill a kitchen cabinet, there are some less-traditional offerings like bottled juice, iPhone covers, and a slew of frosted desserts. Today, Unilever began selling commemorative, gold-trimmed containers of laundry detergent and fabric softener. Vying for this round’s title of “grossest memento” are themed barf bags.
The Centre for Retail Research says people will spend £243 million ($373 million) in connection with the royal birth. That total includes $133 million on celebrations (including $95 million just on booze), $123 million on toys and souvenirs, and $117 million on books and other media.
That might not even be a complete tally, though. For one thing, there’s the copycat factor. “One of the biggest factors will be the unintentional royal brand endorsement,” Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research, tells the International Business Times. “The ‘Kate effect’ has already taken the fashion world by storm … and this trend will follow for the infant’s baby grows, rattles, first bike and so on.”
Along with upwardly mobile parents, tourists, and bettors will probably add to the bonanza. PricewaterhouseCoopers said Britons who visited London for the royal wedding spent $164 million, and the local media documented a surge in visitors flocking to the city in anticipation of the big event.
Those like to gamble were able to make bets on whether “Baby Cambridge” would be a boy or a girl and what the new parents would name him or her (a girl named Alexandra was the odd-on favorite, according to British betting company Coral — so plenty of bettors lost money there). Some people were even laying wagers on how much the baby would weigh. “It is the biggest novelty market we have ever seen,” a Coral spokesman told media outlet AFP. A week ago, even before Babymania reached its peak, the betting market was up to around $1.5 million.
People will spend $86 million on 14 million royal birth souvenirs, the Centre for Retail Research says, and a lot of that stuff is being bought by Americans. The group says foreigners will spend $57 million on commemorative items. “There is a lot of international interest in the royal baby with high foreign media coverage, which does help to advertise the UK globally,” an economist from IHS Global Insight tells Reuters.
The rush probably isn’t over yet. Since the royal couple didn’t announce if they were having a boy or a girl beforehand, souvenir manufacturers were in a kind of holding pattern, waiting to see if they would have to start cranking out pink or blue knickknacks. Blue it is.
But although the outpouring of royal birth-related spending will deliver a boost to the country’s cash registers, a look at items from Prince William’s birth in 1982 that wound up on eBay shows that it’s unlikely most “Baby Cambridge” tchotchkes will ever be worth much more than the sentimental value people attach to them. Most of the asking prices are modest, like $6 for a gold-trimmed plate and $5 for a small vase. Auctions of more expensive items, like $100+ dolls, often closed without a single bid.