LUFKIN, Texas (KETK) — A picture with Santa is a must for the kids every Christmas, but this year it may be harder to find old Saint Nick. 

There’s a shortage of Santas all over the country and even here in East Texas. After a tough year in 2020, the demand for Mr. Claus is way up. 

“That’s what everybody wants, they want to go to the mall and get a picture with Santa,” said Shawn Crawford, Lufkin Mall’s General Manager. 

One report said more than two-thousand hourly Santa gigs remain unfilled in the U.S. One of those spots is at the Lufkin mall. 

“I hoped it wasn’t for real out here in East Texas but portfolio-wide with our company all our other malls had the same issue,” said Crawford. 

He said tried his hardest to bring Santa for shoppers but it was a challenge. 

”I then you know just kind of started randomly cold calling different companies and people that actually played the Santa part and none of them of them were prepared or wanted to do Santa this year,” added Crawford. 

With no luck, Lufkin mall staff didn’t want to leave guests without some Christmas spirit. Instead, they put up a holiday set for a family photo-op. 

“I think most of it was people were just too scared to even wanna play Santa,” explained Crawford. 

Some mall-goers on Facebook replied to the photos posted saying they are still excited to take Christmas pictures at the mall, even if it’s without old Saint Nick. There are many reasons why Santa is in short supply, including supply chain problems limiting costume availability and the fear of COVID-19, especially since Santas tend to be older.  

“Some of these Santas at their age, you know they’ve got a whole lot better chance of getting sick and nowadays, you don’t get over the sick. You know, I mean it’s deadly,” said Texas Santa Helper, Gordon Taylor. 

The staffing agency “hire Santa” says there is a 121-percent increase in requests for Mr. Claus, this year compared to last, and 15-percent fewer people to play the part. Santas that are able and wanting to work strive to keep the magic alive for little ones. 

“These kids still believe and they’ve got the right to believe and they’ve got the right to see Santa,” added Taylor. 

Good news though for Lufkin residents, Santa will be back at the mall next year for sure! He signed a contract and will be there for the next 5 years.