Terry Hutt stakes out his spot outside the hospital where Prince William and his wife, Kate, are expecting their first child to be born any time now.


LONDON - It's a royal bonanza - but for Britain's souvenir makers, also a royal headache.

The upcoming birth of Prince William and his wife, Kate's, first child is a golden opportunity that comes with a mystery: the name and gender of the baby.

It all means that, while merchants have known for months that the future heir to the throne is due in mid-July, they'll be sent into a mad dash to create, or at least put finishing touches on, royal-baby memorabilia.

Sophie Allport, a designer of fine bone china, is one manufacturer waiting for the future monarch's name to send her commercial plans into motion. She has thousands of preorders for handcrafted commemorative mugs but can't fill them until the baby's name can be etched on the rims.

She's as ready as she can possibly be - having prepared blue and pink designs.

"We've never done something like, this so I hope it works," said Allport, whose designs, once written, will be scanned, mailed or driven by courier to Stoke-on-Trent, the center of Britain's ceramics industry.

Be it Alexandra, George or Elizabeth, or any of the other names touted as possibilities, Stoke-on-Trent's workers will then apply Allport's designs to 10,000 mugs, which then will be fired in huge kilns and finished with a ceramic glaze.

Francis Morrall, deputy chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said many designers have just left a small gap on their designs for the baby's name, gender and date of birth.

"All of the designs will have been prepared months ago," he said.

Other manufacturers have taken a different approach, opting for gender-neutral baby-themed merchandise, from "I Love Uncle Harry" baby bibs to "Born to Rule" baby clothes.

Stoke-on-Trent's numerous ceramics factories will become a hive of activity following the baby's arrival, churning out commemorative plates, cups and mugs in British red-white-and-blue to satisfy royal fans at home and abroad.

Unlike Queen Elizabeth II's recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which lasted for many months, Morrall said, a royal baby's birth gave manufacturers a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on "royal fever."

The potential market for memorabilia will also include throngs of international visitors.