Harrods only opens Santa’s Grotto to shoppers who spend over $2,500

Harrods department store on November 29, 2012 in Knightsbridge, London

Oli Scarff | Getty Images

Harrods, London’s 170-year-old luxury department store, opens its Swarovski-sponsored Christmas Grotto on Friday — to shoppers who have spent thousands on its products.

In Britain, department stores and malls commonly open Christmas “grottos” around the holidays, where children can visit Santa and are given a gift.

Running from November 15 until Christmas Eve, Harrods’ “Secret Forest Grotto” is described as a “snow-covered woodland filled with sparkling surprises,” with visitors being promised an exclusive gift from Santa Claus.

But according to Harrods’ website, only those who have achieved Green 2 Tier or above in the store’s loyalty program are “eligible for an invitation to (the) grotto.”

Members of the scheme needed to have unlocked that status by August 26 this year to be invited to the grotto — meaning they would have had to have spent more than £2,000 ($2,566) in Harrods between January 1 and the cut-off date.

“We care hugely about making a visit to the grotto as magical as possible, therefore tickets are extremely limited,” Harrods says on its website. “All invited customers will have received an invitation email.”

Visiting the grotto costs £20 per child, with adults and children under the age of three able to visit for free. The Grotto is already fully booked, according to the booking page.

However, according to The Guardian newspaper, Harrods agreed last week to host 160 lower-spending families in the grotto following anger from customers. The Guardian reported that wealthier families will still be given 96% of the available timeslots.

Harrods, which was acquired by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in 2010, has been hosting a Christmas Grotto in its store in London’s Knightsbridge since 1955.

Harrods reportedly used a similar invitation system to limit visits to Santa to high spenders last year. In 2017, a spokeswoman told U.K. newspaper The Daily Mirror the grotto was open to all members of its loyalty program.

The department store made a profit of £171.6 million in 2018.

A spokesperson for Harrods was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

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