Do you want kids and their parents (who hold the purse strings) to flock to your shop this holiday season? A visit from Santa Claus can help you draw a crowd. Just be sure to choose your St. Nick with care.
Here are four tips for making sure Santa’s in-store appearance is successful.
1. Set expectations in advance. Are you hiring Santa for a specific event, such as a holiday party, a story hour, or a community breakfast? Depending on the situation, he may need skills beyond simply looking good in a red suit and white beard. Will your Santa need to chat with families, read a book to an audience, or sing a song? If so, enlist someone with the appropriate experience.
2. Carefully vet your Santa. If Santa is going to interact closely with children, make sure he doesn’t have a criminal record. Run background checks on all candidates, and ask for references (and then contact them). Instead of placing a job ad, consider using an entertainment agency that pre-screens talent. One Canadian agency even claims that all of its Santas are “naturally bearded.”
3. Promote your event well. Hiring a Santa can be pricey: The mall variety, for instance, can earn $175 per hour. When you’re paying big bucks for a seasonal entertainer, you’ll want to do enough extra business to justify the expense. Market St. Nick’s appearance to your target audience (most likely the parents of young children) with in-store posters, email blasts, social media updates, local newspaper ads, and any other methods at your disposal.
4. Carefully monitor Santa’s interactions. As far as young children are concerned, Santa Claus is sacred — so anything less than a stellar experience is likely to reflect poorly on your business. The Maine Mall in South Portland learned this the hard way in 2012: Its Santa got surly and refused to let a child sit on his lap after her parents chose not to buy a $20 photo. The family shared its story on the Mall’s Facebook page, and other parents chimed in, leading to national press. Although the Santa was quickly sacked, the damage to the mall’s reputation had already been done.