Santa may not be coming to town near you, thanks to COVID

Supply chain crisis hits artificial Christmas tree industry, forces retailers to raise prices

National Tree Company CEO Chris Butler advises consumers to buy their trees early before they sell out.

Santa Claus is in short supply this year due the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The report noted restaurant workers, truck drivers, and people willing to work in retail are all in short supply, and now add Santa Claus to the list.

“We’re seeing the demand up over 120% — over what it was last year pre-pandemic, as well as there are just fewer Santa Clauses,” Mitch Allen told a news outlet.

Allen, founder of HireSanta.com, a national company that started on the show Shark Tank, added, “We’ve lost a lot of them to COVID and other reasons and then there are a number of Santas who still are not going to be back doing Santa this year because of concerns about COVID.”

The typically older, heavier-set men who play Santa are more concerned about their health risks working with unknown clients this year, often only choosing to work with familiar people they worked with in the past, making it harder to find qualified candidates this year, according to the Journal.

The risk for getting hospitalized or even dying from COVID-19 increases for older people in their 50’s, with people 85 and older at most risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Dad and daughter near the tree indoors. The morning before Xmas. Portrait loving family close up.
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Last year, many little kids only could visit with Santa virtually, but declining COVID-19 cases this year have families clamoring to gather together for the holidays, which has created a high demand for the Santa industry this year.

The short supply has also created a new bargaining power for Santa to command about 10-25% higher pay, said Allen.

Brian Wilson, vice president of communications for California-based Santa for Hire, told the Journal that the current going rate is about $50 higher than usual — approximately $175 to $300 an hour, depending on the location and number of hours.

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For Stephen Arnold, chief executive of IBRBS, formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, it’s more about short supply than demand due to COVID-19: “There are as many Santas as there were in 2018 and 2019 but their willingness to work certain types of gigs where they might be at risk is still limited.”

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And don’t forget about Mrs. Claus: Susen Mesco, founder of a Denver professional Santa school and president of American Events and Promotions, noted to the WSJ that she has about 200 women in her network who are getting solo bookings more frequently, but in her 39 years working in the industry, she has never seen a year like this.

“I had one lady call me up two days ago in tears. She needed a Santa for her country club. She said, ‘I’m willing to pay anything.’ And I said, ‘That’s not fair,’ “Mesco said.

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