Competition is fierce among retailers to get you to part with your hard-earned cash at this time of year.

But although selling tactics may have been a lot tamer in the 1930s, today's retailing sector could learn a thing or two from the gimmicks staged at Croydon stores Kennards and Grants.

Kennards, famed for its innovative selling ploys, did not disappoint at Christmas. Father Christmas arriving at the store during the mid-30s brought the surrounding streets to a standstill.

Hundreds of shoppers and children lined North End awaiting his arrival and he officially opened Kennards bazaar doors with a huge golden key to gain entrance to his grotto.

Other attractions included sending small people, referred to at the time as midgets, on horseback dressed as Father Christmas into a local hospital to visit sick children and at one stage the store boasted the "largest Father Christmas in the world" who they claimed weighed 43 stone.

Thornton Heath resident Wally Plummer believes today's gimmicks do not compare to the grand displays he visited as a child.

Wally, 79, said: "I visited Kennards when I was about nine or 10 years old and it was magical. I remember walking through a fairyland-type scene and entering Father Christmas's workshop where there were mechanical elves and gnomes painting toys and gifts. Then you went in to see Father Christmas.

"I think each person paid sixpence or a shilling to go in there and a toy was included in that as well. It was staggering how much effort and details went into those displays back then and I just don't think anything today compares to that."

Grants published brochures offering Christmas gift ideas for men, women and children, some of which are held at Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service.

In its children's department in the mid-50s, toys such as Mr Spacehead, a Dan Dare Space Gun and Little Miss Muffet were popular choices.

For men, wool dressing gowns, tan buffed cape gloves and a dressing set were all the rage in a Christmas brochure believed to have been published in the 1960s, while women were encouraged to indulge in Boxy bags, stoles and powder boxes.

Did you receive any of these gifts?

A large collection of Grants memorabilia and photographs are held at Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service and can be viewed by appointment. Call 020 8760 5400 extension 61112.

The history of Kennards is detailed in Vivien Lovett's book, Kennards of Croydon: The Store that Entertained to Sell, available from WH Smiths at £9.95 or from Croydon Clocktower, Katharine Street.

Contact Heritage with your memories at Croydon Guardian, 10 Pegasus Road, Croydon CR0 4RN or email