Ho, ho, oh no: Santas are in short supply this year and COVID-19 is largely to blame.
Santa Clauses are mostly played by older people who are in their mid-60s on average and tend to weigh around 245 pounds (again, on average), according to The Kringle Group. And many Santas last year, and this year, are continuing to be cautious about making in-person visits to children and gatherings in general.
The risk of getting hospitalized or even dying from COVID-19 increases for older people over the age of 50, with people 85 and older at most risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Most Santas are Senior Citizens and some are still very cautious about returning to work, due to restrictions. So that may reduce the inventory," Tim Connaghan, the national Santa for The Kringle Group, told FOX TV Stations in an email.
There are an estimated 10-15% fewer Santas this year compared to last year for several reasons, according to Hire Santa.
Hire Santa, first introduced on the show "Shark Tank," is a national company that provides "authentic" Santa entertainers for the holidays and other special occasions.
Not only are many Santa Clauses opting out of playing the jolly bearded holiday icon due to COVID-19, but the industry has seen an uptick in COVID-19-related deaths among Santa entertainers, according to Mitch Allen, head elf at Hire Santa.
"Unfortunately, we did lose a number of Santas this past year," Allen said. "We lost so many Santa Claus entertainers who really had the love and joy of Christmas in their heart and were really spreading Christmas cheer to thousands of people every single year. We saw an uptick in the number of Santas that we lost compared with previous years."
Santa Claus paints toy cars ahead of Christmas.
There was a 121% increase in demand for Santa Clauses this year, which is a staggering jump compared to the same time last year, Allen noted.
"We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of people that want to have Santa come to their home, office or retail establishment over last year and even over pre-pandemic levels," Allen said.
"Compounding that demand is that we actually have fewer Santa Clauses this year. We’ve had a number of Santas that have had issues with COVID and you can imagine our Santa Claus entertainers are at high risk for having a negative outcome if they do happen to get COVID. So a number of Santas are no longer doing Santa this year and sitting out," Allen continued.
"We have more demand and less supply than we’ve had in previous years," Allen added.
Similarly, Stephen Arnold, chief executive of IBRBS, formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, said 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," Arnold said.
Not only are Santas in high demand this year, but since there is a labor shortage, prices are going up if you want to see the rosy nose of St. Nicholas in person.
"We’ve been trying to hold the prices steady for our clients, but because there’s been such demand, not only for Hire Santa but for all Santas, that we actually have seen a slight increase. And we’re paying our Santas more this year than in the past and we’ve seen roughly about 10 to 15% increase in the cost to hire a Santa and I believe that the next year we’re going to have to raise our rates," Allen said.
Brian Wilson, vice president of communications for California-based Santa for Hire, told the Wall Street 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.
But not all hope is lost. If clients want to book a Santa for their special event this holiday season, Allen said they’re going to have to be flexible with time and day.
Hire Santa is booked the first two weekends of December across the country, Allen noted.
"We’re already turning down all business on those few days," Allen said.
FOX News contributed to this report.