SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Meeting St. Nick might be a bit more difficult this year, as the U.S. Labor shortage seems to be stretching as far as the north pole. One local Santa said the skyrocketing demand is keeping him extra busy this season.
Retired elementary school teacher Thom Higgins is a busy man this time of year.
"I think I have one day in December that I don't have an appointment with somebody," Higgins said.
He is one of 20 Santas on staff at Royal Entertainers. The Kearny Mesa company provides costumed performers, including princesses and superheroes, for a variety of occasions.
"About half of our performers felt comfortable performing during COVID, and many of them just said we're just going to take the year off," Royal Entertainers owner Brittany Skipper said of their Santa performers.
Last year, the company had to get creative to keep the holiday spirit alive. They provided photo-ops with Santas in snowglobes, Santas holding long banners to maintain social distance, and Santas in masks and clear face shields.
"We are coming back twice as busy as we were before COVID," Skipper said.
According to hiresanta.com, the demand for Santas surged more than 120% this year. The problem is, many who are elderly and at high risk of COVID have skipped out again this year. As for the San Diego group, rent prices have driven many of them out.
"We have noticed a little bit of a shortage in Santas because many of our Santas have left California to go move to other places that are more affordable," Skipper explained.
Luckily, Royal Entertainers has recruited many more, and Higgins helps train the newbies.
"Being a former teacher, I can contribute to the group with ways to interact with children," Higgins said.
The company already has more than 300 Santa appearances and one thousand holiday character appearances booked for December. Despite being short-staffed and fully booked, Higgins said he will always give a stellar performance.
"Hohoho! Merry Christmas!!" Higgins said.
Royal Entertainers has some discounted weekday Santa appearance slots still available. To book a reservation, click HERE.