Jun 24, 2007
What to Expect When Expecting? A Whole Lot of LootBy Pamela PaulNYTimes.com

After Claire Varrelmann announced that she was pregnant, she created three registries for her four baby showers.

Ms. Varrelmann, 28, who lives in Stoughton, Wis., started off with a shower given by her best friend from college, held in her husband’s hometown of Clear Lake, Iowa, and attended primarily by women on his side of the family.

Three co-workers at Weber Shandwick, the public relations firm where Ms. Varrelmann works, held a shower for her in the office, using the theme “Sweet and Sassy.” A third shower, given by friends, was for the women in her family. Finally, neighbors decided to have a coed barbecue shower for Ms. Varrelmann and her 29-year-old husband, Caleb, a cow breeder, for all their friends on the block.

“The whole thing has been a little overwhelming,” said Ms. Varrelmann, who is due in August. “But it’s fun, too — it’s really gotten me excited about the baby.”

What began as an informal gathering for close friends and family has become a major event — and often several events — for expectant parents.

“People love to celebrate the different stages of life,” said Peggy Post, the etiquette expert. “Traditionally, baby showers were small and intimate, just the way wedding showers used to be. But we live in a consumer society and people just love to shop.”

For those in the baby gear business, the growth in showers and registries has been a boon. The concept began about 12 years ago, Ms. Post says, and since then, the number of people using baby registries has mushroomed. It was a $240 million business in 2006, up 9.6 percent from 2004, according to Mintel International Group, a research firm based in Chicago.

Not surprising, baby specialty stores and major retail chains view baby showers, especially multiple ones, as a major opportunity. “Smart retailers see baby registries as an initial touchpoint and a way to grow with a woman and her family,” said David Morris, senior research analyst at Mintel.

Read complete article.

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