- There is a shortage of Santas across the US, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
- The main demographic of older and heavier-set men are opting out of the job over COVID-19 concerns.
- One customer said she is “willing to pay anything” to secure a Santa for a holiday event.
A tight labor market in the US has created a shortage of Santas because older men are opting out of the job, due to the risks of COVID-19 exposure, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Like other years, families across the country are keen to get into the festive spirit by nailing down an appointment at Santa’s grotto.
But unlike other years, Santas are in short supply.
Workers who typically fit the Santa category – older and heavier-set men – are not willing to risk their exposure to COVID-19 making it harder to find qualified candidates, according to The Journal.
Mitch Allen, Head Elf at staffing agency Hire Santa told the outlet that Santas are especially cautious of close contact with young children, many of whom are not yet vaccinated.
And only around half of Santa events offer some form of social distancing, per The Journal.
Bookers, who say Santas are in higher demand this year, are struggling with the shortage.
According to Allen, there has been a 121% increase in requests this holiday season compared with last year but there are 15% fewer professional Santas available.
Susen Mesco told The Journal that never in her 39 years in the Santa industry has she had to turn customers away. “I had one lady call me up two days ago in tears. She needed a Santa for her country club,” she said. Mesco said the customer told her: “I’m willing to pay anything.”
Christina Casella, chief development officer for San Antonio Youth, a nonprofit, said she needed a dozen Santas for appearances at several sites across the city. She put a call out for volunteers on social media but had not found anyone to fill the roles.
“God forbid we need to get somebody on our staff in a Santa costume, we will do that,” she told The Journal, as part of her backup plan.
In September, a Dunkin’ coffee shop in Colorado temporarily closed after the number of staff fell from 15 to three.
Recently, an Arkansas restaurant owner said he is giving his student employees an extra hour’s pay to allow them time to do their homework to retain workers amid the fallout from the ongoing labor shortage.
At the same time, some companies are using “gratitude robots” to thank their overworked employees during the labor crunch. The robots pick up pens and write thank-you notes and holiday cards with custom messages.