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Sorry children, Father Christmas has supply-chain problems

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Dear children

I have been unable to deliver any presents to your home for Christmas but your seasonal goodwill is important to us. You now have three choices: 1: Arrange for delivery in the new year. 2: Exchange them for an exclusive Santa voucher. 3: Cancel and get your parents’ money back.

This has been a challenging year for all, including my helpers and me in our remote workshop. Although elves, flying reindeer and saints have natural immunity from coronavirus, we strictly observed all lockdowns. Should any photographs emerge of us drinking wine and eating cheese fondue, please note that this was a work meeting at which I wore my red and white uniform.

As you know, I am a pioneer of the direct-to-consumer business and am not held back by legacy assets. While others lease outlets in shopping malls and occupy big-box stores, I operate from a mythical fulfilment centre with magically advanced logistics, and a delivery network of aerial deer.

But while I try to remain jolly and bring hope to others, we have faced a perfect snowstorm of supply-chain problems, leading to backlogs in the manufacture, wrapping and distribution of gifts. Anticipating this, I reacted early by chartering my own container ships from China, but they were forced to go round the Arctic Circle for months, waiting to dock.

We were already facing delays in building a new workshop after the old one floated off on an iceberg due to climate change. It has been very hard to recruit a sufficient number of seasonal workers, following the cap on elf permits imposed under the Make Christmas Great Again policy.

That was exacerbated by a spike in the price of the high-grade timber used to build our new facility. We installed triple glazing and heat pumps to future-proof the grotto, but when our energy supplier collapsed, we were reduced to roasting chestnuts over an open fire to stay warm.

Production difficulties also put back the delivery of my new flying sled. Curled up cosily in bed, imagining me taking the polar route to your home, you may think of it as a simple piece of machinery with few parts, mostly made from wood, but technology has advanced beyond even your imaginations.

Last year, I ordered a self-flying model that would allow me to sleep peacefully on board as it crossed continents, thus achieving higher gift-giving productivity without breaching limits on driver hours. Unfortunately, it needed a number of sensors and computer chips that ran short at the factory.

To make matters worse, I chose this year to upgrade the food consumed by my reindeer. They traditionally eat grasses and ferns but I strive to raise my environmental standards, and rashly replaced their pastures with an experimental blend of synthetic moss. This has given my reindeer range anxiety over how far they can fly without refuelling.

Sadly, I have to report one other matter. Like other merry old men, I have enjoyed a variety of White Christmas privileges but these were abruptly suspended earlier this year, pending an external investigation. I remain confident that my priority sled landing slots, permitting me to overfly low-traffic neighbourhoods at night, will be restored by next yuletide.

Despite these mishaps, you will be glad to hear that I managed to make my way to your roof on time, with a fine pile of presents. Unfortunately, I then discovered that your parents had installed a wood burner with a narrow flue, making it impossible to shimmy down the last 10 metres — chimneys are tight enough.

My reindeer dragged the sled up and down your street, searching hopefully for a charitable neighbour to leave the parcels with. We found that all doors were locked because so many have been forced to isolate by the spread of Omicron. Even Good King Wenceslas is under Level 2 restrictions.

In short, a cold coming we had of it, especially me. I fully understand the disappointment you may feel and wish to reassure you that I will spare no effort to exceed your expectations in future. Although I am a gift-giving monopolist, it will always be day one at Santa Inc.

Please take your pick from these three options, and I have meanwhile minted a selection of non-fungible tokens of reindeer images for the whole family to enjoy virtually. Rudolphs with red noses and flashing antlers are rarities, and can easily be regifted when you tire of them.

Yours apologetically,

Father Christmas

john.gapper@ft.com



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