Santa Shortage: A Head Elf weighs in on holiday headache

The number of Santas is not meeting demand this holiday season.

December 5, 2022, 11:02 PM

As the night before Christmas inches nearer, Santa Claus is being asked to make more and more appearances. But Santa Claus is getting harder to find.

Mitch Allen, the founder and "Head Elf" of event planning company Hire Santa, spoke with ABC News' "Start Here" podcast about the difficulty his company is having at a crucial time of year: a nationwide Santa shortage.

"People are wanting Santa more than ever before," he said. But the demand is outpacing supply.

Hire Santa coordinates booking for Santa Claus impersonators across the country, as well as Mrs. Claus impersonators and Christmas elves. And Santa Claus doesn't just show up in malls; he visits homes, company parties and parades.

Although COVID-19 and its subvariants are continuing to spread across the country, and predicted to rise in the winter months, "people are really back to the tradition of sitting on Santa's knee," Allen said.

PHOTO: Santa Claus arrives to the HarborWalk for the first-ever Martins Park holiday ship lighting at the Harborwalk in Boston on Nov. 27, 2021.
Santa Claus arrives to the HarborWalk for the first-ever Martins Park holiday ship lighting at the Harborwalk in Boston on Nov. 27, 2021.
Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Bookings are back to pre-pandemic levels, but there are not enough Santas in the workforce.

"There's just absolutely huge demand coming out of COVID and there are just not enough Santa Claus entertainers," said Allen.

"For every Santa that reaches out to us [for work]," he said, "there are 20 people reaching out to us for Santa events."

Allen told ABC News that demand is up 30% from last year, and more than 120% from pre-pandemic levels. He added that there are more than 2,200 open positions across the industry, which includes Mrs. Clauses and elves.

One factor he noted in his interview with ABC News is that the industry, which already skews older, is aging-out. Over the past few years he estimates the company has lost 10% of its workforce, as Santas have decided to "hang up the red coat," he said.

A major factor is the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affects elderly people.

During a normal holiday season the hardest thing about being Santa, Allen said, is some of the questions that are asked.

"You have sick children or children that are going through family issues and even just financial issues," he said. "The children really see those things and pour into Santa as somebody as a trusted figure."

The best part, he said, is spreading the Christmas cheer.

"It's this love that gets pushed back," he said, "reflected back onto them from the children who have this joy and faith of Christmas."

"And it's really just an intoxicating experience to have a Santa as somebody sit on your knee and tell you their Christmas hopes and dreams."

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