Santas in Richmond see demand as labor shortage stretches to the North Pole

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 5:58 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Christmas tradition that most missed last year due to the pandemic could be tough to find this year as those who help Santa by wearing the big red coats themselves are in short supply.

Some Christmas character hiring companies are attributing the spike in high demand and shortage of Kris Kringles to the country’s overall labor shortage and missed opportunities last year.

“It’s a tremendous blessing to bring joy to people this time of year and really in a time when I think people need it more than ever,” Jason Marks, who has taken on the role as the man with the rosy cheeks over the last few years.

Realizing how much joy playing the role as Santa has brought the community, Marks created his own company called Santa Richmond.

He works with private events and parties but says he’s been booked up for the holidays since Halloween.

“I am personally getting 50 to 75 requests a day that I’ve been having to turn away because I’ve been booked for a really long time,” Marks said.

In an interview with NBC, a nationwide Christmas character hiring company says they’ve seen a demand for the man in the big red coat up by 120 percent while the number of Santa’s have dropped by the double digits.

Marks says part of that can be attributed to how the job puts some of the most vulnerable at a higher risk of catching COVID-19.

“A lot of people who do this professionally have decided to take care of themselves and their health and look out for themselves during the COVID crisis and have decided either not to do Santa in person this year and do the virtual route,” Marks said. “Some have retired, and some have unfortunately passed away.”

No matter if you’re on the naughty or nice list or if you still don’t feel comfortable Marks said a number of places are still doing virtual visits.

Some places still have COVID protocols in effect to make sure you have a memorable holiday.

While he is still offering virtual visits, Marks says he’s happy to see some things return to a somewhat normalcy.

“It’s really special there’s nothing that can replace that connection with a child and even with the adults,” Marks said. “When the adults can allow themselves to be vulnerable for a minute and remember what they felt like as a child, that’s a really really special moment.”

Chesterfield Town Center hires their Santa through a third party and says they’re set for the holiday season.

Appointments for photos can be scheduled online.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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