With over 25 years’ experience of Christmas grottos, we are well versed in answering retailer queries on Christmas grottos. We’ve collated the top questions we get asked and put them together into this handy blog, read on to find the answers to our top Christmas grotto questions below:
The majority of children who visit a Christmas grotto tend to be up to 10 years old. Above that, they only tend to come if they have younger siblings.
The grotto itself should be made to look as cosy and homely as possible – to give a real Lapland effect! Consider having a fire with mock glowing coals, fake candles, a photo of Mrs Claus and pictures of Christmas scenes.
You can use soft lighting creatively and play appropriate music in the background to create a magical atmosphere for visitors.
The experience begins when the children enter the building of the grotto - it’s important to create the right atmosphere right from the very entrance. The time with Santa mustn’t feel rushed - allow at least 5 minutes dedicated time per family with Santa.
Consider what else you can offer to give your experience a perceived high value. How about offering free mince pies, cookies, hot chocolate – or mulled wine for the mummies and daddies? Make a range of hot drinks and snack food available to purchase and include a complimentary ‘Photo with Santa’ in the package.
Your experience must feel long enough so that it feels good value for money. Consider adding in an extra stage/room to the experience if you feel it needs lengthening.
Ensure that any waits in the experience (i.e. when groups are waiting for groups ahead of them to move through the experience) are kept to an absolute minimum and that the children are kept fully engaged and occupied during any such waits by interactive and engaging ‘elves’ or similar. You could also consider hiring a juggler, or a magician, face painter or a balloon modelling artist.
Having a simple way of knowing when Santa is ready for the next family – e.g. a green/red light signal which is only visible to the usher.
Go live with online booking as early as June, and monitor bookings carefully. Use social media channels to advertise your grotto event widely. By advertising early you can start to gauge interest, and upscale your plans if required.
What can you offer visitors to encourage them to choose your grotto? Often the more unusual the setting, the more compelling the event (e.g. a cave, a canal or a mine)! Use the unique characteristics of your site/facility to blend in with and enhance the traditional Santa’s Grotto experience. For example, if you were running the event at a football stadium, your elves could wear football tops and talk to the children about this being the place where they work making presents for Santa, and also where they train and keep fit! The more unique and different you can make your experience, the better, so purposely adapt the story to your surroundings.
If you are providing photography at the event, ask parents if you can upload the photos to your social media platform so that they can “tag” themselves or their family in the photos. This will help promote your event and entice other families to visit your event this time, or next year.
Your Santa should ideally be of fairly large build – or dressed up accordingly to be of quite a good build. He should also have a warm personality; he will need to be able to put all sorts of children at ease quickly, so needs to be someone who gets along really well with children. In fact, he should love children! If he loves what he’s doing, he will truly captivate the imagination of the children – and impress the parents. If you can find a Santa who has a real beard, that is a bonus! And can he sing nicely to the children? A lovely touch if so.
Santa’s assistants must be bubbly and fun! They need to interact with the children in order to create an engaging and memorable experience. Santa and his helpers need to appear believable and able to capture the imagination of the children.
The majority of grottos tend to use wrapped presents. However, there are still a good number of grottos where the unwrapped toys are laid out for the children to choose what they want. This latter option does mean that you are very much less likely to receive complaints about the relevance of the present.
However, if you are trying to create a very traditional experience, it may be more appropriate to have your presents wrapped. If wrapped, choose a supplier who can not only wrap all the presents for you and clearly label each present with the intended age and gender, but can also label each carton of presents with this information too. Make sure you choose toys that have a perceived high retail value and are suitable for the age of the child you intend to give them to.
Firstly, speak to and network with others who run grottos in a different area of the country – i.e. who wouldn’t regard you as competition. You could consider using a grotto event firm who will run everything for you. Once you have run the event this way for the first time, you will then have learnt so much about what to do and not to do next year, you may be more comfortable with running the whole event (or at least elements of it) yourself in future.
Remember to create a detailed budget which covers every cost of the event. Once you have this, you can think about how much you want to charge for the experience entry fee. You can then calculate how many paying visitors you would need in order to cover the costs. This will help you to decide how many days to run the event on. Consider whether you will charge one fixed fee for the entire experience, or whether you will charge extra for drinks, snack, a photo with Santa, etc.
Next, create a marketing plan which will allow you to organise how and when and using what channels you will advertise your event. Social media is a must!
Don’t forget to make sure you have a feedback form or a simple way of capturing reviews/ feedback from visitors. Consider offering a small incentive for visitors who give you a Google review or a Trustpilot review.
Make sure you charge enough to cover all of your costs and make a profit, but not so much that it is too expensive otherwise people will not want to come.