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A baby boom for kidswear

The birth of Prince George has delivered a sales rise for retailers and analysts say the trend will continue.

The royal baby’s arrival is expected to provide some welcome relief to the kidswear industry, where sales have dwindled over the past year.

Prince George was swaddled in an Aden + Anais blanket

Prince George was swaddled in an Aden + Anais blanket

On his first public appearance Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge was swaddled in a bird-print Aden + Anais muslin blanket, which retails at £44.95 for four and has since sold out.

This is a hint of what is to come if the influence the Duchess of Cambridge has is anything to go by. Kate’s impact on fashion brands is well documented: Jenny Packham and Reiss’s websites crashed after she was spotted in their outfits, while the blue Issa dress in which she greeted the press when her engagement to Prince William was announced sold out within minutes.

During her pregnancy the Duchess’s golden touch continued. Maternitywear label Séraphine reported a 300% rise in sales of its 95% viscose Blossom dress at £55 after she was seen buying it; overall brand sales have grown by 40%.

Now the ‘Kate effect’ is expected to spread into kidswear, with the Centre for Retail Research predicting a 13% boost to sales in the first few weeks of young George’s life.

Even brands that have no association with the royal couple have benefitted from the birth.

According to Rufus Pearl, co-founder and director of maternity accessories label Pink Lining, in the week following the birth sales rocketed by 50% week on week. “We haven’t done anything to help drive sales so we weren’t expecting it,” says Pearl.

“There will undoubtedly be a spike in interest in babywear over the coming months, particularly as the public try to spot what the future king is wearing and where they can find similar pieces for their own babies,” says Lulu Rayne, co-founder of kids’ footwear brand Step2wo.

Kidswear brands and retailers are hoping royal baby fever could provide a boost to the deteriorating market.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, sales of clothing for children aged from newborn to 23 months dropped 4% in the year to July 7, to £933m. The total number of items of kidswear sold over this period also dipped by 2.3% to 172 million products.

Ashma Kunde, apparel analyst at Euromonitor International, says over the past few years the market has polarised.

“Supermarket growth is huge,” she says, noting that Asda boasts the largest market share for kidswear, while both
Tesco and Sainsbury’s are in the top five.

She adds: “The luxury end of the market is also booming, with etailer Alexandalexa.com doing well and Harrods expanding its kidswear offering.”

However, the mid-market has been squeezed as mid-tiered stores look to compete on price. Some, such as Pumpkin Patch, have fallen foul of the tough climate and had to call in the administrators [in Pumpkin Patch’s case only for its UK business].

Yet Euromonitor is forecasting a 7% rise in UK kidswear sales between 2012 and 2017, in part fuelled by the birth of the prince. While the impact will not be “ground breaking” a lot of brands could benefit, according to Kunde.

She says: “The brands Kate picks will certainly benefit from that exposure. If she decides to take both a high and low [end] approach to dressing her baby, that could benefit mid-level brands.”

Despite the new mother’s penchant for high street names, Harrods’ head of childrenswear Torly Grimshawe argues luxury labels such as Burberry are best placed to benefit.

“We expect to see an increase in demand across kidswear and feel there will be a particular increase for English heritage brands,” she says. “The Duchess of Cambridge is a key driver in womenswear fashion sales and so we anticipate this will follow through to the childrenswear market.”

Story in numbers

£933m Size of UK kidswear market

27.3% Share supermarkets have of the kidswear market

1.3% Share independent retailers have of the kidswear market

172m Pieces of kidswear sold

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