Royal Baby: $400M Economic Bonanza

PHOTO: Union Flag baby shoes are available for purchase at Highgrove Shop.
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Being breast-fed by a princess can't be bad. But for the royal baby, that's just the beginning.

Beyond that, as he or she coos and wiggles, lies a cornucopia of delight: bespoke teddy bears, the imperial rattle, a Spode sippy cup, and wee slippers emblazoned with the Union Jack. Asks the world looking on: Why can't my own darling have those slippers? Well, now he can.

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So keen is public interest in the Royal Baby--not just in the U.K. but in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world--that an entire industry is working overtime to pump out Royal Baby-related merchandise, in anticipation of Princess Kate's due date. In fact, experts say the baby will generate $400 million in economic activity.

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While some Royal Baby items are in the best of taste (including those endorsed by the royal family or sold by trusts that the family controls) others decidedly are not.

Take, for example, The Royal Baby Sick Bag ($4.70) offered by UK graphic designer Lydia Leith. Available in either pink or blue, it presumably is what the imperious infant would spit up into. On its front, framed by the words "Well Brought Up Royal Baby" is an image of the prince and princess cradling their child. Also available from Leith: a "Shake, Rattle & Rule" mug in fine bone china ($14).

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On the tasteful side of the ledger are a pair of Union Flag Baby Shoes ($35), shown above, sold through Prince Charles' own Highgrove Shop, a portion of whose proceeds benefit the Prince of Wales' Charitable Foundation.

Through the royal family's own Royal Collection Shop can be had a Guardsman Sleep Suit ($20) and Guardsman Pyjamas (English spelling, $23). You can top off either with a Child's Bearskin Hat ($20) for chilly nights. Left unclear is whether your child, when dressed as a Guardsman, tucked into bed and tickled, can laugh.

Southam-based Mask-Arade makes and sells masks that allow the wearer to impersonate members of the royal family. Managing director Ray Duffy tells the Associated Press he has shifted into overdrive since the announcement of Kate's pregnancy. Normally, he says, his company keeps 2,000 masks in stock. They are now gearing up to have 20,000 each of Kate and William.

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Altogether, Baby fever could boost the British economy by $380 million or more, says Joshua Bamfield, director of the UK's Centre For Retail Research. "This is a good news story, and there really is no downside," he told Reuters. "With the birth coming in July, people will have time to get involved, and that means additional spending."

Possibilities abound, says Richard Cope, director of trends for global market research firm Mintel, for the royal birth to work to England's economic advantage—in increased spending by tourists, but in domestic sales as well. "These kinds of events raise people's sense of pride," he tells the A.P.. It makes them enjoy being British, he says, and thus more likely to buy things that reinforce their national identity.

Could a baby really throw off $400 million? You're divine right, say experts.

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