Monday brought months of anticipation to a close when the Clarence House tweeted that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, had been brought to the hospital in labor. Thirteen hours later, palace officials declared the birth of Middleton's and Prince William's first child, a boy and heir to the British throne. And thus began the retail rush – which will amp up further once his name is announced – as manufacturers race to produce personalized, limited edition memorabilia for the prince's birth.
"The prince isn't going to go away, but the hype and expectation is that people want something with them A.S.A.P.," says Jem Allport, who runs the company Sophie Allport with his sister. It will be making a special royal baby mug in honor of the birth.
The Centre for Retail Research estimates that 80 million pounds (about $120 million) will be spent on royal baby souvenirs and toys. Much of the memorabilia has already flooded the market in the days and weeks leading up to Monday's birth. However, a new wave of products – many of them specialty goods – will be released to include the royal baby's sex, birthday and eventually his name (an announcement that some predict may take weeks).
"We wanted to make sure that we personalized the mug to make sure it is specific to him – to make it more of a collector's item and to make it more special," Allport says. Sophie Allport, like many specialty goods companies, began planning for the birth as soon as Middleton's pregnancy was made public in December. "Organizing being the key thing," Allport says.
The market was sure to be there, considering what the business merchandisers did with the major royal events of the past couple years: Prince William's and Middleton's wedding in 2011, the queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and 60th anniversary of the queen's coronation this year.
"Most royal events we can plan for well in advance," says Stephen Church, the e-commerce manager of royal commemoratives retailer Peter Jones China. "You've got lots of notice, you can get them approved by the Royal Palace and you've got plenty of the time to design and start with the marketing."
However, a birth changes the process entirely.
"You don't want to push the product too much in advance in case it doesn't go well," Church says.
His company and other merchandisers had blue and pink samples ready for when the baby's sex was announced. "We know that we've got to do this production quickly, so we'll be going flat out and into the market as fast as we possibly can," says Simon Willis, sales and marketing director at Royal Crown Derby, which makes tableware, giftware and collectables. He said his company's factory would be finishing the artwork of some of its royal baby products within an hour and a half of Monday's official announcement and sent out to retailers within three or four days. They have other series planned for when the baby's name is announced.
Sophie Allport is also bracing for the name to be written on its mugs, though it already has its production line prepped for the blue coloring. The company promises the first batch will be ready in warehouses within 10 days of the name announcement, with 10,000 of the 9 pound (about $14) mugs pre-sold, as of Tuesday and more orders expected.
Other products, particularly the high-end ones, may take a little longer, with Church estimating much of Peter Jones China's memorabilia being available in mid-August, and its most expensive offering, the $25,000 Royal Crown Derby Heritage Comport, not being ready until September.
The market for royal commemoratives has also grown internationally, with Peter Jones China – which sells its products online and through mail order in addition to its 10 store fronts – seeing more business in the United States than the U.K. Retailers also reported interested buyers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even China. "Now because of the Internet and general information about the royal family that flows through social media, we've got a lot of interest from all over the world," Willis says.