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Shop Santa 'sleighed' by Celtic Tiger.

Byline: ANDREW BUSHE

THE booming Celtic Tiger economy has meant that many shops and stores have found it difficult to find a Father Christmas.

And for the first time ever Grafton Street in Dublin is not offering a traditional visit to the snow-covered grotto.

The economy has led to a shortage of Santas hampering efforts of shopping centres and department stores to find Santas to put a smile the faces of little children.

Now Dublin City Centre Business Association has launched an appeal for Santas.

Chief executive Tom Coffey said: "There are huge difficulties in getting people. I am sure there are great Santas out there.

"There must be lots of people who would love to do it. If they contact us we would put them in touch with people."'

But not just anybody can become Santa.

Mr Coffey added: "You need someone who is believable to children.

"It is not just a question of getting an old person - you need someone with the right personality who will enter into the spirit of it."

Dublin's Grafton Street will not have a Santa after the Brown Thomas store decided to cancel him because of "positioning in the marketplace".

A spokeswoman denied it was because of a lack of Santas.

She added: "We did have applications and might still involve a Santa but not in the traditional sense of children visiting a grotto and being given presents."

Richie Walker, who has been Father Christmas in the Jervis Street centre for seven years, started his festive work yesterday.

He said: "Santas are getting scarcer every year and it is getting difficult to get anybody as it is hard work."

But Ian Huxtable of Arnotts store said they have one Santa who has been with them for years and was hugely popular.

He added: "He's a gem. He is a retired gentlemen with a real beard and loves children. He almost believes he is Santa Claus."
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2000
Words:322
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