The Market for Baby Products is Smiling The Buzz


The birth rate has been pretty flat in recent years, and the tough economy has affected many people's budgets. But despite these trends, this industry doesn't have a lot to whine about. Those who work with baby goods and services say business is robust -- and growing!

Baby products and services is a huge industry. Some of the thousands of products include baby clothing, toys, feeding products and theme nurseries. Services include midwives who help deliver babies into the world, lactation consultants who help with breastfeeding, and postpartum yoga instructors who get new moms back into shape.

A Bad Economy is No Match for a Shopping Parent

There are few industries that didn't get affected by the changing economy over the last decade. However, Rhea Bush, who owns a cloth-diaper company in Gainesville, Florida, says that demand for her product has stayed the same -- just in a different way.

"There are more people buying cloth diapers," she says, "but they are buying more affordable options as opposed to the boutique-y type of diapers."

Rebecca Darco is the marketing manager for a Portland-based company that sells baby clothes online. She says things are looking up.

"Most businesses have seen a drop in revenue because of the recession, but things are beginning to bounce back and we have high hopes that business will continue to rise into the future," she says.

Demand for brand-name products goes up during a recession, says Armin Brott. Brott is the author of eight books about fatherhood. He says people like having the comfort, reliability and backing of a national brand during tough times.

"But recessions also bring out the entrepreneur in a lot of people, so there’s also a proliferation of small manufacturers that are producing some really great products," he says.

The amount of money that people can make selling baby goods and services varies a lot. It depends on what you're selling, of course.

Rosalee Rester is the founder of the company where Darco works. Rester says that, like any job, how much you will make depends on how much you put into it.

"It is really all over the place and depends on the amount of work you are willing to put into it, just like anything else," she says. "It also depends on how you set up your shop, what sorts of baby goods you are selling, what your margins are. So many variables."

Sue Fast is the editor of a parenting magazine. She says that she's heard that these days, more parents are passing along items once they're done with them, which would mean less money coming in for those selling the products.

What Happens at the Toy Store Ends Up at Grandma's House

One busy market for toy sales is grandparents. Lots of them have time to shop and money to spend, and most love pampering their grandkids.

Many stores are carrying older toys again in order to appeal to grandparents' nostalgia. Fast says she sees several stores carrying larger selections of classic toys, like yo-yos, tops, wooden blocks and skipping ropes. But she's not sure why that’s the case.

"I'm not sure if that's the industry's attempt to cater to grandparents shopping for their grandkids, or if that's just a nostalgic revival of the tried-and-true or a return to simpler things," she says.

And it's not just grandparents causing the baby goods and services industry to continue to rise. Due to divorces, some children may have two nurseries -- one at each parents' house. If they have particularly keen grandparents, they may have three or four nurseries!

The Future

The continued success of the baby goods and services industries isn't without a cost, according to Brott. He agrees that interest is rising in this industry. But he feels at least some of the reason for that is troubling.

"People are so paranoid about letting their kids go outside, where they might -- gasp -- get their hands dirty, skin a knee or be out of sight for a few minutes," he says.

"As a result, they buy more and more toys and games that kids can play inside. So while the industry's wallets are getting fatter, so are our kids, who would have spent a lot of that blinking, beeping, squeaking toy time running around outside, hanging with their friends."

Even during times when people are having fewer babies, things keep looking good for those involved in the baby goods and services industry.

"The industry is monstrously huge!" says Darco. "The thing about babies, though, is that, as far as we know, having them has not gone out of style yet -- knock on wood -- so interest in the market remains high."

And it's a safe bet that interest in the market will remain high. After all, if there's one thing we can count on, through unsteady economies and all the other uncertainties of life, it's that people will keep having babies. And parents -- and grandparents -- will keep buying things for them.

"People are having babies, and will continue to have babies," says Bush, "so the outlook for baby goods and services will always be good."

"Judging by the number of baby-gear-related e-mails I receive every day," Fast says, "the industry appears to be growing!"

Links

Toy Industry Association
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