Booming baby business

Photo by maessive

A bump in the provincial birthrate is spawning new baby businesses. Will the boom last?

Our province’s birth rate, declining since the mid-sixties, is on the rebound. Some 4,905 babies were born in Newfoundland and Labrador last year, a seven per cent—or 300 baby—increase over 2007.

It seems Bellies and Bundles Maternity and Baby Boutique, among a handful of other newish St. John’s baby shops, picked a good time to be born.

The 700-square foot store specializes in natural baby products and comfortable, stylish office wear for moms-to-be, explains Ashley Russell, who co-opened the store in November with her best friend and cousin Lesley Reid.

“No one wants to wear a muumuu to work,” Russell laughs. “They’re professional employees and definitely want to be able to wear something they’ve been wearing all along, from pants to dresses to blouses.”

Neither of the pair have children of their own, but they were inspired by some of their pregnant friends who were having a hard time finding work clothing around town, Russell said.

They sell locally made items including baby slings, skincare products, hats and soon, baby booties. Russell says they are always looking for more local and Canadian items. They also offer environmentally friendly products for babies, like natural teething toys, and maternity accessories.

The buzz started while the bun was still in the oven. The Bellies and Bundles Facebook group had over 400 members long before the store opened.

So far, business is living up to the anticipation.

“We’ve been doing really well, we had a great month leading up to Christmas and we’re still going strong through the slow retail season, so that’s positive for sure,” Russell says.

But will the baby boom last—and will it be strong enough to keep the baby business booming?

The provincial government’s most generous projection is that the total fertility rate will increase from 1.35 in 2008 to 1.49 in 2025 “as economic conditions in the province continue to improve.”

Its worst projection is that the provincial fertility rate will decline to 1.11, which is more consistent with the longterm birthrate trend.

The province’s retail sales in clothing and accessories grew by more than $5 million from 2008 to 2009.

The shop—wheelchair and stroller friendly—is located in Coaker’s Meadow Plaza, Torbay Road.