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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 22:35 GMT
Santa out in cold for Christmas
Santa, in happier times
Hundreds of Santas could be out of work this Christmas as more and more shops have decided not to open grottos.

The Ministry of Fun, which supplies Santa's helpers to UK shops, has taken only 75 bookings this year, compared to 300 this time three years ago.

It said removing the traditional Santa from shops could have a negative effect on sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Lack of suitable shopfloor space and increasingly disapproving parents are said to be behind the decrease.

I'm going on the attack on Santa's behalf
James Lovell
Santa School director

Director of the 'Santa School' in Suffolk, James Lovell, told BBC Radio Five Live: "Grottos are being phased out of shops because a large space is required.

"Maybe some shops feel they could better use it by selling products.

"Fair enough, but from the other point of view, when you were a child, Father Christmas was Christmas.

"How many opportunities do we have in our lives to have a genuine bit of magic?

"I'm going on the attack on Santa's behalf."

We asked for your views and experiences. Here are just a few of them.

There were no Santa's grottos when I was young, they only appeared much later as a way for shops to get more customers and therefore more profit. They were never intended to be for the benefit of anyone other than the shopkeepers.
Barry, United Kingdom

It would be a shame to see grottos vanish. I used to love going to see Santa when I was a kid and now that I have kids of my own I want to be able to take them to see him. My son is two this year so he is now at the stage where he will be able to understand Christmas a little better than before. Hopefully stores will be able to keep the grottos open. It is only for a short period of the year and what could be more delightful than seeing a child's face full of happiness.
Linsey Donald, Dundee

Here we go again. Another attempt by the high street retailers who would rather fleece that extra pound from its customer than show our young children some magic in what is becoming a horrible world to live. Boycott the stores that used to hold a Santa's grotto....It is also their get out clause in case the Santas haven't been CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checked.
Charlie Millett, Nottingham

What a cynical populous we are becoming, money driving everything. What's wrong with the little bit of magic we all had as children? I bet most of us can remember visiting Santa in his grotto. Santa and Christmas are inseparable when you are young. It is always a shock when the "illusion" is revealed and that is soon enough, but while our children are young, let them experience the magic we all did. Just for once a year, please.
Steve Beasley, Birmingham

The head of the Santa School needs a lesson in Christmas me thinks. I was always of the opinion that Jesus was Christmas, and Santa was just a top up aspect, him being a mere saint and all! After all, even the red suited Santa is an invention of the Coca Cola Company.
David, Liverpool, England

When the children were small we spent two hours queuing in a Leeds department store for the opportunity to see Santa. We were hot and bothered by the time it was our turn - the adults felt used and abused - the children were touched by the excitement and mystery of the whole experience once they were inside the grotto.'Ooh look mum - fluffy rabbits singing in the snow.' We paid a large sum for a small toy, an interview with Santa and a photograph to record the moment.The kids were so warm that their rosy cheeks were more impressive than the rough cheeks of Santa's little helper. No more suffering for the grown ups I say! Unless the store pays for tea/coffee/sandwiches/small tot of something festive to assist the resolve of the adults in staying put and not running out of the building screaming: 'Bah, humbug!'
Juliet Tindale, Malton England

I'll certainly never forget my younger brother being mistaken for a girl, when aged three, and given a pink plastic ironing board and matching iron in our local department store! Long live Father Christmas!
Dan, Yorkshire - UK

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