When I was a child, I thought Hamleys was a magical place. However this giant toy store at Christmas is my idea of hell: so crowded it resembles a rush hour tube carriage, but spread over several floors of a large Regent Street building.
Hamleys isn’t exactly a budget destination. But even so, I was startled to discover that the Santa’s Grotto there costs £55 per child. Well, it’s £45 really, but the photo with Father Christmas is an additional £10 – and you aren’t going to fork over that kind of money to leave without a photo, are you?
So what do you get for £55? Your child gets to join a group of 14 other children, and spend an hour in the company of Father Christmas and the elves, eating food and hearing “tales of Lapland and magical stories of Christmas”. Your child will have a one-on-one chat with Santa, and will leave with a “small gift”. Not forgetting the photo, of course.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I had no idea this was the going rate for grottoes these days. I mean, what could you do for your child instead, for £55? For that money, you could take them to Santa’s Grotto at Selfridges and take them for afternoon tea at Claridge’s afterwards. Last year the Selfridges grotto included a meeting with Father Christmas and his elves, a “winter wonderland”, a North Pole postbox and a present – for just £3.
I know which one I’d choose.
That said, even with my money-saving hat on I’m a consumerist softie, if this recent Guardian article about Hamleys is anything to go by:
“Toy shops are where you first experience the agonising paralysis of overwhelming consumer choice. They’re the place that teaches you the existential horror of the mismatch between you and the advertisers’ version of what you’re supposed to be. They’re where you learn the anguish of wanting what you can’t have, and the misery of having what doesn’t make you happy. And all this watched over by adults who seem to think they’re giving you the time of your little life by introducing you to all this awfulness.”
I’m not sure about that. I recall that Sindy’s Fashion Boutique made me very happy. But I suppose I can see where the writer is coming from. Also, Thrifty Baby’s favourite toy is a wooden spoon, so right now I’m getting an easy ride and am probably not in a place to pass judgment.
That said, isn’t a £55 Santa’s Grotto proof that consumers and their money are easily parted?
Image credit: State Library & Archives of Florida.