The arrival of a royal baby is set to give the British economy a much-needed boost, with the so-called ‘Kate effect’ expected to attract more shoppers and summer tourists, experts predict.
Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, known as the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their first child – the third in line to the British throne – sometime in July.
With the spotlight firmly focused on Kate’s growing bump, some retailers are already reporting higher sales after receiving a royal stamp of approval.
The ‘Kate effect’ is a recurring phenomenon that sees items worn or purchased by the Duchess instantly selling out. A black-and-white polka-dot dress from high street retailer Topshop, which Kate wore during an official engagement last April, sold out within one hour of her being photographed wearing it.
Similarly, after Kate was seen leaving nursery shop ‘Blue Almonds’ in South Kensington carrying a white baby basket, retailers across the UK reported an increase of 57 percent in similar, lower priced, baby baskets.
Izabela Minkiewicz, the owner of Blue Almonds told Al Arabiya that following Kate’s visit to the store, they had seen a surge in interest from other customers.
“We got into the spotlight, people wanted to discover what is Blue Almonds,” Minkiewicz said. “It’s a one-off shop to be honest, it’s a boutique, but we definitely see more interest, which is exciting.”
Industry group the British Retail Consortium (BRC) told Al Arabiya it expects a royal baby boost for British retailers.
“Kate is clearly very closely followed right around the world, so certainly the choices she makes with things like prams or baby wear are going to tremendously influential,” Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium told Al Al Arabiya.
“I think it’s a great thing that she tends to favor British producers and certainly she’s going to have a big influence that will make a big difference to some manufacturers and retailers,” he added.
London & Partners, the official promotional agency for the city, said the capital could see an increase in visitors this summer, especially to royal palaces and exhibitions.
“We can see from these royal events an impact on visitor numbers to royal attractions,” Kirsten Ferguson of London & Partners told Al Arabiya.
Ferguson said that in 2010, a summer exhibition at Buckingham Palace that allows visitors to tour the palace for a fee saw just over four hundred thousand visitors. By contrast, the summer of 2011 shortly after the royal wedding saw a 50 percent increase in visitors.
“Following the royal wedding in 2011 there was a massive jump and [Buckingham Palace] actually saw six hundred thousand visitors come through the door,” Ferguson said.
Hotels are also trying to capitalize on interest in the royal baby. The Grosvenor House hotel on London’s Park Lane just launched a suite modeled after a royal nursery. The hotel teamed up with design firm Dragons of Walton Street, who worked with the late Princess Diana to create royal nurseries for Princes William and Harry.
The hotel is offering packages at the suite starting at 2250 pounds per night and the hotel’s Ambassador for the Middle East told Al Arabiya the ‘suite dreams’ nursery is generating a lot of interest from the Arab Gulf countries in particular.
“We’re having lots of people asking: do you anticipate the baby being born during Ramadan? Which we think probably yes,” Howard Hartley of the Grosvenor House hotel said.
Hartley expects visitors from the Gulf to make up more than 80 percent of the hotel’s occupancy in the weeks following the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Even book publishers are hoping to benefit from the royal baby. Publisher Bloomsbury is launching a children’s book titled ‘Shh! Don’t Wake The Royal Baby’ in July complete with a cover illustration of the Queen parachuting in the air carrying a baby.