We have a Santa shortage.
The Santa Shortage
On the demand side of the Santa market, the industry is swamped. Observers hypothesize that consumers are on the rebound. Having endured several years of Covid-mandated isolation, they have bounced back with unusual enthusiasm. Mitch Allen, the Head Elf, says the requests for Santas at his firm far exceed pre-Covid levels.
The sources of demand are what we would expect. Typically at shopping malls, photography events, and holiday parties, Santas greet visitors and take pictures with little kids at holiday amusement parks like Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Hialeah, Florida. They also work at Christmas stores that are open year-round.
Meanwhile the Santa supply is down. The IBRBS president tells us that his organization’s numbers slumped during Covid and never recovered. In 2020, membership slid from 2000 to 1400. Sadly, he also commented, “You gotta remember: We’re all a little plump. Most of us are over the age of 60. We’re probably in many cases diabetic. We had a much higher incidence of death. So, yes, a lot of people backed away and decided not to perform.”
In addition, the “cost of production” for Santa can be pricey. They typically spend between $800 and $1200 on a Santa suit. Add the boots, belt, dry cleaning, beard upkeep (and maybe hair color too), and you have a hefty initial investment.
Our Bottom Line: Wages
And yes, reflecting the graph, Santas wages are up. While Santa can expect to make $5,000-$8,000, some of the best Santas take home $20,000 during one holiday season. Called “Santaflation,” the IBRS president says his members’ wages are up 10-15 percent.
One last thought..
We should add that the International Brotherhood of Real-Bearded Santas has begun to accept Santas with fake beards. But, “faux-bearded” Santas are associate members and cannot vote.
My sources and more: Thanks to Slate Money for alerting me to the Santa shortage. From there, I discovered the details in this Planet Money newsletter (I suggest subscribing.) Then, CNBC has all you could want to know about Santa economics.