Santa firm sees record bookings in 2016

A man dressed as Father Christmas. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
A man dressed as Father Christmas. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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As a migrant worker with multiple identities and a reliance on freedom of movement throughout the European Union aboard his sleigh, he ought to have more reason than most to fear what post-Brexit Britain has in store.

But in an uncharacteristic show of confidence following a tumultuous year for the British economy, the business of being Santa is booming. A firm which enlists the benevolent visitor from Lapland to spread festive cheer in offices, shopping centres, and parties the nation over has reported record sales.

With hundreds of bookings in the week running up to Christmas and appointments already in the calendar for the next three years, the company behind the Santa doppelgängers said demand is unprecedented.

Catherine Harvey launched Hire Santa three years ago with modest intentions. At the time, she had just one Santa lookalike on her roster – her brother.

Since then, however, the company has expanded rapidly. Over this festive season, she has no fewer than 40 would-be Santas on her books, fulfilling an average of 280 appearances a week. The trend has left Ms Harvey confident that, whatever happens post-Brexit, her company will continue to thrive.

“I’ve already got bookings for 2017, 2018, and 2019,” she said. “As soon as you get to January, companies are already starting to work on next year’s Christmas, especially other Christmas-based industries.”

The surge in interest has helped Hire Santa post annual revenues of around a quarter of a million pounds. Asked whether business growth could slow as a result of Brexit, Ms Harvey said: “I don’t believe so, because Santa – Father Christmas – is always going to be a prolific part of our culture, and that’s not going to go away.”

The director is banking on the company’s “niche” focus on the high-end market to usher in further growth.

The company focuses on providing the “best-quality Santas” – though not the cheapest – and tends to serve the upper end of the market, with corporate clients making up the majority of its bookings. Its customers have included Cartier, Claridges, Lloyds of London, Marks and Spencer and The Dorchester.

The business has around 70 costumes on the rack for its actors, who could be called in for anything from a mid-year wedding to an event that calls for 30 Santas, she said. On one occasion, one of the company’s Santas was even booked for a gig that saw him airlifted to the top of a building.

“Unfortunately, the problem is that there’s a shortage of exceptionally good Santas,” Ms Harvey said, adding that she has had to turn actors away who “don’t catch the character of Father Christmas”.

But it is not just a fulsome beard that makes a perfect Santa. Only two of her hires have beards of their own. Instead, Ms Harvey advised, Santas-to-be need a natural laugh, a good personality and a great sense of humour. They should be able to think on their feet and deal with occupational hazards such as physical attacks by children.

“The ability to grow a real beard does not make anyone Santa Claus – it means they can grow a beard,” she stressed.