View between two parts of the animated grotto based on the childrens book
#Inspiration    20/09/2018

Grottos in shopping centers

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Incorporate a Christmas grotto into your shopping center’s festive lighting and decorative display this year to excite, delight, and increase footfall

Every year, children around the world look forward to the holiday season: the music, the excitement, the lights, and of course, the annual visit to the Christmas grotto at their local shopping center. The Christmas grotto is a particular favourite in countries like the UK, USA and South Africa, where parents often book visits to grottoes online so that children can enjoy a mix of entertainment, a visit with Santa, and a hand-wrapped gift. There’s a charge for this visit, ranging from as little as £5 (approx. €6) for a quick visit with Santa to £39 (approx. €45) for the opportunity to have breakfast with him.

A festive experience that people will pay for

This is clearly a festive experience that people are willing to pay for, which means that there is an opportunity for shopping centers to generate income by providing an interactive experience that – importantly – parents can book online, thus avoiding hard-to-manage queues and driving footfall to the center before the visit as parents make an effort to get to the center early.

Making your Christmas grotto free can yield brilliant results

Outside of the UK, USA and South Africa, the idea of charging for a visit to a grotto might not seem very “Christmasy”, but even shopping centers that choose to shun the “pay-to-visit” model can benefit from incorporating a Christmas grotto into their festive decorative and lighting displays this year: by providing a unique Christmas experience for children and marketing the experience through the right channels, retail centers and malls are likely to see a significant increase in visitors.

A few years ago, when UK-store Selfridges¹ decided to reinstate their Christmas grotto after an absence of four years, they reported that the footfall to the store increased by 20,000 in the first weekend! And when MK Illumination developed a Christmas grotto filled with festive lighting and fabulous characters for the UK shopping center Bluewater, the center reported having visits from over 20,000 children in the five weeks of the installation – and of course, each child has parents, siblings and friends, so the overall footfall was significant thanks in large part to the grotto.

Use a Christmas grotto to meet your seasonal goals

Shopping centers can use their Christmas grottos in many different ways to meet their objectives.

When Selfridges (above) opened their grotto, they made sure that as families exited the grotto area, they did so through the so-called “Christmas Shop”, filled with ideas for presents and irresistible festive goodies. The result? A reported 40 per cent increase in sales of Christmas-related items.

If you’re interested in raising money for charity, you can incorporate a collection box into your Christmas grotto. That’s what Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords did, and they raised €10,959.35 for a local hospice in the first year and a similar amount in the second, which enabled them to purchase much-needed medical equipment to the hospice.

Turn your center play-center into a Christmas grotto with child care and give stressed parents free time to shop. Add benches around the grotto and pop-up stores so that parents can relax with a take-away coffee while their kids enjoy the grotto. Build a photo area into the grotto and take and sell professional photos that can be used as Christmas cards or simply fond memories, with some subtle branding.

The possibilities are limitless but you need to make sure that the experience is right

The important thing, however, is the experience. You need to get the balance of light and decoration, animation and static features, interactivity and “the human touch” right. And that’s where MK Illumination comes in: we’ve created festive lighting and decorative solutions for thousands of retail centers over the year, helping them incorporate grottos to attract visitors. We can help you transform your shopping center with light and decoration, integrating a grotto with fiberglass figures and animated characters that children and parents alike will love.

Interested in learning how we do it? You can also read more about how we helped Bluewater make an impact and generate revenue here. 

Let’s talk about your Christmas grotto

Your grotto needs to be the perfect fit for your retail space. Let us help you create a complete lighting, decorative and grotto display that’s tailor-made for you. Get in touch. We’d love to chat.


¹ From “Soaring cost of Santa”, Bryony Gordon, The Telegraph, Accessed 5th September 2018

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