Should Santa be a loyalty program perk?
Harrods is facing widespread backlash after reports arrived that visits to its famous Christmas Grotto would be reserved for customers spending more than $2,500 at the department store.
“The Harrods Christmas Grotto is offered by invitation to Harrods Rewards customers in recognition of their loyal custom throughout the year,” Harrods posted on its website. “Due to the overwhelming demand for places, we invite Harrods Rewards customers who are tier Green 2 and above the opportunity to book tickets.”
Green 2 Tier members must have spent more than £2,000 ($2,566) between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26 to be invited to the grotto. Time slots are already sold out for the run, lasting from Nov. 15 until Christmas Eve. A visit costs £20 per child and includes a gift from Santa.
Since the Christmas Grotto opened in 1955, entry had been a first-come, first-serve basis until 2017, when slots were reserved for rewards members, reportedly due to heavy demand. Last year, Harrods shifted to an invitation-only format and for the first time this year, the retailer revealed the spending levels necessary to earn an invite.
In response to backlash, Harrods this year announced a sweepstakes to allow 160 families to visit for free. The Guardian reported that wealthier families would still be given 96 percent of the available time slots.
Social media burned with criticism over the policy that favors big spenders. A 32-year-old mother posted on Facebook, “I’m devastated! Single-parent family so I can’t afford to spend thousands at Harrods so I’m not a ‘loyal customer’. I shop there every so often but it’s such a shame that only the rich or famous will get to go.”
James Browne, 40, told the Guardian, “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.”
Harrods said in a statement, “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.”
- Harrods X Swarovski Christmas Grotto – Harrods
- Harrods limits Christmas grotto to £2,000-plus spenders – The Guardian
- ‘Where is your Christmas spirit?’: Devastated parents slam posh store Harrods for ‘disgraceful’ Christmas Grotto fiasco – Daily Mirror
- Santa visits reserved for shoppers who spend over $2,500 at London’s famous Harrods store – CNBC
- You can only access Harrods’ Christmas grotto if you spend at least £2K – Retail Gazette
- Harrods Christmas grotto only open to big spenders – and their friends – The Telegraph
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it wise for retailers to offer Santa visits as a perk for valuable rewards members? What advice would you have for Harrods about balancing overcrowding situations at the Christmas Grotto, the complaints from ordinary customers and taking care of its best customers?