The Royal Carriage Brand Is a Nail-Biter, Too

The prince’s stroller will be eyed — and copied — by ordinary parents | “There is nothing bigger for a brand than a royal endorsement”

Morgane Lapeyre and Gabi Thesing

BUGABOO

When Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge go out for their first walk with the future U.K. king in tow, their choice of pram will likely trigger a fanfare of publicity that money can’t buy. While cameras will be focused on young George Alexander Louis, all eyes in the baby goods world will turn toward stroller makers such as Amsterdam-based Bugaboo International. The Daily Mail reported in April that the duchess bought a blue Bugaboo, a brand also used by British celebrities Sienna Miller and Elton John. “There is nothing bigger for a brand than a royal endorsement,” says Richard Cope, director of trends at market researcher Mintel in London.

While closely held Bugaboo has “no indication” the royal baby will be ferried about in one of its products, it would be “delighted that a style icon such as Her Royal Highness has chosen Bugaboo for her first child,” spokesman Max Dundas says.

Asda, Wal-Mart Stores’ U.K. supermarket chain, has already seen how a royal nod can mobilize shoppers. It reported a 57 percent rise in sales of woven-straw baby bassinets after the duchess was pictured with one from an upscale boutique in April. Yet the biggest beneficiary of the royal birth — besides his loyal subjects, of course — is likely to be the maker of the baby’s pram or stroller, figures Chris Hirst, chief executive officer at advertising agency Grey London.

The risk of choosing a Bugaboo, whose Cameleon model sells for £799 ($1,212) on the company’s U.K. website, is that the royal household could offend people who want the duchess to buy British, says Graham Hales, CEO of consultancy Interbrand London. “The royal family understands its role in representing Great Britain, especially in a challenging economy,” Hales says. “British businesses are looking for support.”

Maclaren, a U.K. company that’s made prams for half a century, could use an image boost. The company in 2009 recalled strollers in the U.S. after there were reports of severed fingertips of at least a dozen children over the previous decade. To capture some of the glow of the royal birth, Maclaren is offering a $360 Royal Baby Techno XT StyleSet, a stroller tricked out with British symbols such as the Union Jack.

A study by the Center for Retail Research estimates that U.K. sales of strollers will rise 13 percent, to £288 million, in the 12 months from July 1 as new parents look to follow the choice of the royal couple. Gains are also expected for makers of the baby’s clothes, crib, and toys, according to CRR, which estimates that the birth will add £243 million to U.K. retail sales in July and August.

The bottom line The royal birth could boost business for Bugaboo, whose $1,200 baby strollers are popular with British celebrities.

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