Only children of wealthy families will get to sit on Santa's knee at Harrods grotto this year

Victoria Bell
·3-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 05:  Father Christmas presents Harrods 26th Annual Christmas Parade in the Harrods Christmas Grotto on November 5, in London England. (Photo by Steve Finn/Harrods via Getty Images)
Tradition: Many families look forward to bringing their children to the Harrods Santa's grotto every year. (Getty)

Harrods has been accused of behaving like the "grinch who stole Christmas" after announcing that mostly children whose parents are big spenders at the store will be allowed in.

The department store is restricting access to its annual grotto, a tradition adored by children and families, to people who have spent £2,000 or more at the store.

This year, Harrods partnered with Swarovski to make a Secret Forest Grotto with a snow-covered woodland to “leave little ones mesmerised by the magic of Christmas”.

Santa Claus is due to make his grand entrance to the iconic department store next week ahead of Christmas.

But children will only be able to sit on Santa's knee if parents splashed enough cash at the flagship shop in London to qualify for a Green tier 2 or above Harrods Reward card, leaving many of its angry customers branding the store "greedy".

LONDON - NOVEMBER 01:  The Harrods sign is illuminated during the Christmas Parade to celebrate the opening of Santas Grotto at Harrods on November 1, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)
Backlash: Harrods agreed to change its policy and allow 160 lower-spending families the chance to visit the grotto following criticism from customers. (Getty Images)

Harrods has agreed to change its policy this year and allow in some children whose parents haven’t spent enough following backlash from families saying they would allow 160 lower-spending families the chance to visit the grotto.

The 160 will be slotted in among a total of 4,400 10-minute appointments with Santa starting on Friday 15 November.

But this means that wealthy families will get 96.4 per cent of Santa's time.


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James Browne, 40, has visited the grotto since his fourteen-year-old son was a baby, told the Guardian that the tradition had been "ruined by Harrods' greed.

“Harrods is behaving like the Grinch who stole Christmas," he said.

"They have lost the true meaning of Christmas and given into the commercialisation of the season.

"Visiting Father Christmas shouldn’t be reserved for those that are fortunate enough to frequent the store and spend thousands of pounds.

“I think the owners need to have a long hard look at the longer-term impact on their business for the thousands of children who won’t grow up with a fond feeling for the store.”

The 170-year-old store introduced a free grotto in 1955, but Browne said that they have turned the "charitable nature of Father Christmas into a money-making venture."

Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed and a man dressed as Father Christmas pose for photographers in the Christmas grotto in the Harrods department store in London, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008.  Saturday saw the official start to Christmas at Harrods as the annual Christmas parade brought a festive cheer to the crowd with street entertainers and performers.(AP Photo/Akira Suemori)
Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed poses with Father Christmas in the Harrods department store in 2008. (AP)

The department store now manages a team of 10 actors playing the role of Father Christmas, with three working in separate sections of the grotto at the same time.

Tickets to see Father Christmas cost £20 per child.

A spokeswoman for Harrods said: “Each year, we are overwhelmed by requests for this special experience, which we make every effort to facilitate. We care hugely about making a visit to the Grotto as magical as possible, and tickets are extremely limited due to the number of slots we can facilitate in-store. Unfortunately, we simply cannot meet the demand for places.

“The Harrods Christmas Grotto is offered by invitation only to Harrods Rewards customers in recognition of their loyal custom throughout the year. Due to demand, we invite Harrods Rewards customers who are Green tier 2 and above the opportunity to book tickets.

“This year, Harrods wanted to offer all visitors to the store the chance win complimentary tickets to the Harrods Christmas Grotto.

A ‘Wishing Well’ appeared … 10 winners per day were drawn from the Wishing Well; and the winners were each awarded one of the 160 booking slots.”

Yahoo news has contacted Harrods for comment.