Global mall Santa shortage reported due to COVID-19, health regulations as new generation of Santas go virtual

7 mins read
Mall Santa | Photo 198875840 © Natalia Kuzina |

 Santa Claus is ubiquitous year round, spreading cheer and goodwill everywhere he goes. We especially expect to see him around more during the holidays, but this year may be different. There appears to be a worldwide in-person Santa Claus shortage in 2021. How can this be? Where did all the Santa Clauses go?

According to Worldwide Santa Claus Network founder “Santa” Ed Taylor, the Santa shortage is the result of having a greater demand than supply.

“Yes, we have lost some Santa Claus portrayal artists to COVID-19 and other illnesses, and other causes such as retirement,” says Taylor, who has more than 4,000 members in his Worldwide Santa Claus Network. “We also have many new, first-year Santas and many Santas opting to provide virtual visits. It looks like any Santa shortage is due more to an increase in demand than a lack of supply. Virtual Santa visits have changed everything.”

Prior to 2020, Santa Ed typically made 90 to 110 personal appearances as Santa in the Los Angeles area each year, appearing at tree lighting ceremonies and parades, company parties and home parties, and occasionally as a fill-in Santa at malls, picking up a few shifts here and there to give the regular Santa a break. 

Just as the pandemic caused Zoom, the video conferencing platform, to grow by over 300 percent in 2020, many other virtual platforms also saw huge growth. Virtual visits with Santa became an option, and these visits exploded everywhere. 

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Santa Ed made no in-person visits in 2020, and instead created, where he made 563 virtual visits as Santa Claus. Taylor says that many Santas are now choosing online platforms.

Santa Ed’s virtual visits in 2020 included company parties, family visits, tree lighting ceremonies, and visits with schools and organizations. People loved his appearances. By the end of the 2020 season he had receive dozens of messages from families and organizations alike saying that virtual Santa visits are their new tradition. People loved the ease of the visits and Santa Ed’s in-depth information about life with his reindeer and elves in the North Pole. They found his virtual Santa visits simply magical.

Other Santas are having similar experiences with virtual visits, too. A number of new, well-funded, tech-savvy companies like Zuhoo popped up during the pandemic, making it incredibly simple for the not-so-tech-savvy Santas to plug in to an easy-to-use platform that provides thousands of families worldwide with fun, inexpensive Santa experiences. Now hundreds of Santa Claus portrayal artists are opting to provide virtual visits, making them unavailable for the in-person positions they filled in 2019 and before, thus contributing to the worldwide shortage of Santa Clauses to fill requests for in-person appearances.

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Taylor says that we will see the return of many in-person Santas in 2021. Santa will be at malls and retail stores, appear live at parades and tree lighting ceremonies, and entertain at in-person company and home parties. However, virtual Santa visits are here to stay.

“The Santa shortage isn’t as much a shortage as it is the result of offering an incredibly popular alternative way of having an experience with Santa,” Taylor says. Tens of thousands of people will visit Santa virtually this year. 

Many Santas love the ability to do what they do from home. They have built North Pole sets or use visual-effects backgrounds. They enjoy having longer, more personalized visits and getting to know more about the children—and adults—they visit. 

And parents love the wonderful interaction their children have with Santa virtually—no more tears and much more joy—and families also typically receive a keepsake video of the entire experience. Recently, one of Santa Ed’s virtual-visit customers sent him an email saying that the family just watched the video of their visit, and “our boys loved rehearing the book,” referring to a book Santa had read during their visit.

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Companies enjoy providing virtual Santa visits to their employees and customers, and having Santa make an appearance at their virtual Christmas parties allows remote workers in many locations to enjoy the experience together. 

This year Santa will be available at,, and hundreds of other virtual Santa visit provider sites.

The increase in demand for the virtual visit option provides many new opportunities for those interested in portraying Santa, and Mrs. Claus is often a welcome addition. With more than 200 Santa and Mrs. Claus training sessions available on-demand, the Worldwide Santa Claus Network is worth exploring. Several sessions are also available for those who sign up for a FREE membership!

Santa Ed invites all men with a jolly demeanor and a big heart to explore portraying Santa Claus. There is demand for every ethnicity and look. If you have a beard, great. If it’s not white, no problem! The Network can help with that. No beard? No problem! Today’s theatrical beards are amazing! 

If portraying Santa Claus sounds like fun to you, head over to and become a member for FREE!

Ladies, these increased opportunities for Santa means increased opportunities for Mrs. Claus, too!

To learn more, go to and sign up for your FREE membership!