Buying for baby

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Local businesswomen poised to open new store offering essentials for newborns to eight-year-olds

Summer's on the way, and that means not only is it time to break out the barbecue, it's also likely you'll receive a handful of invitations to baby showers.

In 2006, 4,542 babies were born in Newfoundland and Labrador, about 2,000 of them during the spring and summer, according to Statistics Canada. The market for babycare items is huge, and people across the country are willing to splurge on gifts to welcome new little bundles of joy.

Gingersnap owners Janet Murphy (left) and Nancy Day Howard say both functional and heirloom gifts are great for baby showers. - Photo by Tara Mullowney/The Telegram

Summer's on the way, and that means not only is it time to break out the barbecue, it's also likely you'll receive a handful of invitations to baby showers.

In 2006, 4,542 babies were born in Newfoundland and Labrador, about 2,000 of them during the spring and summer, according to Statistics Canada. The market for babycare items is huge, and people across the country are willing to splurge on gifts to welcome new little bundles of joy.

Gifts for baby showers - now called "sprinkles" when they're held to mark the arrival of a second or third baby - see trends that come and go, and today's most popular items are eco-conscious and convenient, said Tanya Petruk, owner of Canadian online baby and toddler shop BlueBlankie.com.

Cuddly plush toys, BabyLegs legwarmers and organic bath products are top sellers among BlueBlankie items, and hand-painted wooden rocking chairs, horses and toy boxes make great heirloom gifts, Petruk said.

"Keepsake items are also important treasures to welcome each baby, such as special blankets or cuddly plush," she said. "Replenishing the essentials, including bath care products for baby, also make great ... gifts."

In St. John's, Janet Murphy and Nancy Day Howard have been studying the trends in baby products, and are set to open their store Gingersnap at 202 Water St. The pair have been leaving their door unlocked while they've been setting up the shop over the past couple weeks, and are already seeing about 20 customers a day.

"People have been putting things on hold until we open, and everything's not even here yet," Murphy said. "The response has been incredible."

Murphy and Howard are transforming the former candy store into a stroller-welcome, breastfeeding- and baby changing-friendly shop, featuring turquoise painted wood floors and displays of clothes and other essentials for kids from newborn up to eight years old. While there are lots of toys, noticeably missing are the low-level, eye-catching candy displays.

"We're not trying to pull the wool over parents' eyes," Howard explained. "Parents know when stores are using marketing tricks."

Murphy was originally a friend of Day Howard's husband, but the two women became close once their children, now four, were born six days apart. During a playdate one afternoon, Day Howard told Murphy of her plans to open a baby store.

"I told her my secret and she didn't look pleased," Day Howard said with a laugh. "She really wanted to open a store. Because we have similar personalities and similar tastes, we thought, 'Why don't we do it together?' and it evolved from there."

Extensive research

Murphy and Day Howard have scoped out websites and magazines for the most popular and coveted baby items - "We're buying based on things we think are fabulous," Murphy said, and support the eco-conscious trend. They carry baby clothes made of soft bamboo, cloth diapers, glass baby bottles, chemical-free, peel-off nail polish, and natural rubber, orthodontic pacifiers, and Gingersnap's shopping bags are biodegradable.

They also cater to trendy, pop-culture savvy parents by carrying 1950s-inspired kids' chairs, fashionable, dad-friendly diaper bags and the exact brand of baby blankets carried by celebrity babies like Suri Cruise and the Jolie-Pitt children.

"People are reading magazines, and celebrities are a part of our culture," Murphy explained. "For some moms, it's not going to make a difference, but for others, it will. People often think if someone with a lot of money buys it, it speaks to the integrity of the product."

One of their most popular items so far is a child's long-sleeved white T-shirt bearing a drawing of U.S. President Barack Obama and the words, "I need a change."

Once the shop is open, the pair hope to include big-ticket items like cribs and gliders, too. If a customer wants it, they'll do their best to find it for them, Murphy said, and they're inviting people to tell them their child-rearing stories, and what products they'd find the most useful.

When it comes to baby showers, Murphy and Day Howard agree the best items to buy are ones that moms-to-be can hold onto for a while, instead of items only for newborns.

"I loved getting things I could break out down the road," Murphy said of her own baby shower.

"I know people like to buy diapers and other practical things, so a diaper bag stuffed with things like a bunch of pacifiers or swaddling blankets would be a nice gesture, and would also keep in mind 'mommy brain,' so if one gets misplaced, there are others."

"I think even buying decor for children's rooms that's outside the norm is a good idea," added Day Howard. "I know if I'm going to a shower, I want to bring the winning gift - something with a lot of thought behind it."

BABY SHOWER ETIQUETTE 101

Good shower etiquette - think you have it? Once you accept a shower invitation and find the perfect gift, consider the following tips to ensure an enjoyable time for you and the mom-to-be.

Show your enthusiasm when participating in those time-honoured, yet sometimes embarrassing baby shower games.

Don't insist that your method is the best way to feed, bathe, diaper or otherwise care for a baby, and don't criticize the mom-to-be for her babycare methods - we all do what works best for us.

Don't make any negative comments about the baby's name if the mom-to-be decides to share it with shower guests.

Lend your support by offering to help out with a few errands, prepare a meal, or spend an afternoon taking care of the baby or an older sibling so Mom can take a break once the baby arrives.

Finally, enjoy. After all, you're helping to celebrate a new life.

(Source: Tanya Petruk, owner of BlueBlankie.com online baby boutique.)

tbm@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, U.S.

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  • Jasper
    March 28, 2012 - 14:23

    I wanted to buy organic bath products for my wife. Her skin gets sensitive when she is pregnant. I didn't have any luck though. I'm trying again now.

    • Janet Murphy
      April 23, 2012 - 02:34

      Gingersnap has been carrying two lines of organic bath products for at least a year now. Give a ring to the shop if you have any questions.