In the 20th century it became common during December in large shops or department stores to have a "cavern" in which an actor dressed up as Santa Claus would give gifts to children. Grottos can be large-walk through fantasy cavern-like areas incorporating animatronic characters such as elfs and pantomime characters. This tradition started in Britain in 1879 and then extended in the 1890s to Australian and American department stores seeking to attract customers.
In 1877, David Lewis owner of Liverpool 'Lewis's' Department Store, visted Paris to see the Bon Marche (the worlds first department store) and so set about opening a similar store in Liverpool's Church Street. Lewis's Bon Marche was not just a store, but acted as an exhibition space and being next to George Henry Lee's, was targeted at a different market than that of Lewis's.