WARWICK, R.I. (WJAR) — Supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic may affect the holidays in an unprecedented way.
Mall Santas, or Santa’s helpers, aren’t as easy to find as they used to be.
The Santa shortage isn’t happening everywhere; the annual Christmas tradition of kids getting their pictures taken with the man with the white beard and red suit is in full swing at the Warwick Mall.
"Santa Clause is the spirit of giving and the spirit of the holiday," said Warwick Mall General Manager Domenic Schiavone.
The demand for Santa is up 30% from last year, and up 120% from before the pandemic.
Concerns by those who help by playing Santa about getting COVID-19 has led to fewer candidates.
“Despite everything that goes on in the world, that spirit always prevails,” Schiavone said. “That's the true meaning of Christmas."
The Warwick Mall has two long-term Santa's helpers, hired by Melino Photo years ago.
Kids can get their photo taken with the Christmas icon for a price, or just say “hi” and spend some time with him for free.
Santa Steve, one of Santa’s helpers on duty at the mall, said, "I just love doing it. It's the best job I ever had. I love it because of the children. No higher calling than making little kids happy.”
Ronald Cortoreal of Providence said he thinks being a mall Santa would be a fun job.
“It's just sitting down, talking to kids, be happy, in the Christmas spirit,” he said.
His friend, Vladimir Read, also of Providence, might be a good candidate - if he lightens up his beard.
“I'll do it. I'll be Santa Clause!" he laughed.