weird commerce

Holiday Weird Commerce: PackageFromSanta

Whether you believe in him or not, Santa Claus has been around for a long time.

“Oh, we don’t disclose how old Santa is here at the workshop — that’s a fast way to get on the naughty list,” said Dale Gruber, CEO of PackageFromSanta.com. “We just want every child to get to experience the magic of Santa and the magic of Christmas.”

Now in its tenth season, PackageFromSanta.com is a one-stop online service for keeping your child believing in Santa. A parent, grandparent or other adult family member accesses “Santa” for their child through the website or the app available on iOS and Android. There are three different packages to choose from, but each includes a personalized video from Santa, as well as a personalized phone call and an official Santa letter with a seal of authenticity from the “North Pole.”

Gruber started PackageFromSanta just over a decade ago with his wife, Carey, to whom he gives the original credit.

“We actually ordered a Santa letter [from another company] for our son, Chase. When it arrived, it had the correct name on the envelope but the wrong name on the letter,” said Gruber. “So when he opened it, of course he thought Santa didn’t know him or care about him.”

As the tears began to fall, Carey’s quick thinking avoided a crisis. She crafted an apology letter from Santa, making it look as authentic as possible and stuck it in the mailbox.

“And Chase completely believed it,” said Gruber. “So we averted the crisis in the end and knew we were on to something special.”

Over the years, the company has grown but learned a lot, he said. That learning stems from striving to make parents happy because the business is based on those parents’ children’s happiness.

“We basically built our website from the ground up with the customer in mind. We have live chat, a 1-800 number, an email, a ticket support system,” said Gruber. “It’s something other sites don’t have and something we take great pride in.”

But the role of keeping the belief in Santa – as it turns out – is an all-year-round business.

“People ask us what we do after Christmas. And aside from maybe sleeping for one day straight, we jump right back to the drawing board and start working on the next season,” said Gruber, who adds that the product cycle is about five years out with new ideas for artwork, technological improvements and product additions. “We jump right back in for the next year. We’re on the proverbial Santa Claus treadmill.”

Part of that “treadmill” includes product offerings that keep children believing in Santa in the off season. That includes personalized calls through the Santa app with 28 different messages and greetings, complete with personalization incorporating the child’s name via a name database. During the summer, for example, the app will have Santa “call” the child, and an image of him on the beach with elves playing in the background will appear.

“It comes with one free call, and it’s perfect for the parent who wants to keep their child believing in July, for example, or if they’re acting up or not doing their chores or being mean to their sister,” said Gruber. “Maybe [it’s] one level short of a magic wand for keeping your child behaving well, but it just reminds them that Santa is watching them all year round, to keep them on their toes. And more importantly, it’s easy for parents to use.”

From a payments perspective, Gruber said PackageFromSanta is well-equipped with the latest technology.

“We are PCI-compliant, and the encryption, as well as our payment and checkout, member accounts, [they’re] all cutting-edge code, which keeps it seamless for the consumer,” said Gruber. “We really wanted to listen to the customer. They are the ones who really built the website based on their feedback.”

The biggest hurdle in the business, however, is indeed the seasonality. Gruber said making sure the logistics are in play way in advance so that crises like the one his son Chase experienced way back when don’t happen again.

“If not, you’re going to have a lot of crying children, but a lot of upset parents,” said Gruber. “We didn’t have to learn that the hard way, but we’ve just always been very conscious of every season. We do walk a tightrope on a sense of urgency and seasonality.”

Gruber said PackageFromSanta has been profitable since year one, and while investors have approached them, external funding wasn’t needed.

“From a business standpoint, this was something we were kind of made to do. From a technological standpoint, it may sound cliché, but it’s destiny for us,” said Gruber.

Ultimately, the couple says they do it for the happiness they can provide to families.

“One year we opened up a 1-800 testimonial line and if there is ever a day when my wife and I are feeling exhausted or wondering if it’s worth it, all we have to do is play back some of the audio testimonials from people,” said Gruber. “That makes it all worth it, and we know we’re in the right business.”

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