Grotto crisis fears as festive stations could be scrapped after ‘Santa shortage’

It's no-ho-ho for kids this year as many grottos are being scrapped due to a Santa shortage.

Britain’s biggest supplier has been forced to turn down requests from retail bosses, due to problems recruiting St Nicks.

An overflowing jobs market caused recruiters to publish the plea: “Our grottos need you.”

Matthew Wise from Great Grottos, which runs 35 Santa stations in retail centres, said: “There’s a shortage of Santas. Applications are down 25%. We’ve turned down 15 grotto requests because there’s not enough staff.”

Hundreds of children will miss out after Crockford Bridge Farm at Weybridge, Surrey, had to scrap its grotto.

The farm said: “There are too many obstacles to overcome, including staff leaving the industry.”

Even a bumper 20% pay rise is not encouraging enough jovial chaps to apply.

Mr Wise said: “The job market is more competitive than last year, with theatre and hospitality venues open again, so there is more competition for firms recruiting. We’ve had to increase wages.

“If you are the jovial type, please apply via our website – we need more applications.”

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And the St Nicks who do turn up are likely to look younger this year.

“The average Santa age is around 52. But we will consider you at age 28 or above,” added Matthew.

Nearly 600 staff – including 140 Santas– are needed for his firm’s 35 grottos. Pay has increased to up to £14 an hour.

The effects of Brexit, the pandemic and a glut of seasonal vacancies have pushed the number of available jobs to a 1.1million – a record high and an increase on the 800,000 vacancies pre-pandemic and Brexit.

Jack Kennedy, a UK economist for job search site indeed.co.uk, said: “Santa and his elves are not immune to the shortage of seasonal workers. There are two months until Christmas and ­employers are typically paying £10 to £29 an hour for seasonal staff.

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