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Five Questions With Kris Kringle, CEO, Santa’s Workshop, LLC

The subject of this month’s Five Questions With interview is one of the most recognized figures in the toy and gift-manufacturing sector. Santa’s Workshop (SW) is admired worldwide for its productivity, harmonious labor relations, and flawless logistics. CEO Kris Kringle is both its public face and, in collaboration with CFO “Mother Christmas” Kringle, one of the administrative wizards behind the global powerhouse. With characteristic generosity, he agreed to spend a few minutes with The Score. We hope you’ll find his observations timely.

Perhaps more than even the agricultural sector, your operation is highly seasonal. Have you considered expanding your scope to other holidays?

Well, we long ago expanded from our core competency of Christmas gifts to provide presents for a number of year-end holidays, from Chanukah to Kwanzaa to New Year’s to traditional Solstice celebrations. We try to support the spirit of giving that predominates this time of year. If we were to expand beyond that, I’d worry our business could get overextended. We work year-round to prepare for our annual push. After a well-deserved holiday for our workforce, we’ll be getting to work on next season’s gifts well before Groundhog Day.

Consumer confidence seems to have a big impact on your output volume. What are you anticipating this year in terms of demand for your services?

Consumer confidence typically influences the complexity of gifts we produce and deliver, specifically the amount of high tech they contain. We may need to adjust for demand shifts between plush dolls and talking dolls, or video games and construction blocks. But that typically doesn’t affect demand in terms of unit volumes, the need for prompt deliveries, or the care we put into every item we make.

Amazon.com recently earned some media attention over its use of robotics to address holiday shopping demand. Are you incorporating any new technologies into your production processes?

As a traditional, family-owned company, we at SW are cautious about jumping on trends. Still, we have embraced some automated production, particularly in areas that reduce hardship on our workforce, such as sugar-plumbing and fruitcake management. To offset any resultant loss in headcount, several years ago we launched an employee-externship program that has exceeded all expectations. In fact, largely thanks to its popularity on Facebook, we’re now actively recruiting candidates for this elf-on-the-shelf program. We’ve also begun limited testing of an automated delivery system, the reindeer-understudy drone/omnidirectional-lift present hovercraft.

Do you and your family give a lot of thought to credit scores and related issues?

Generally speaking, no. We pay our bills promptly, and avoid running up our Polar Express card, and we check our credit reports every year at annualcreditreport.com. But just recently we had an experience that put credit scoring front and center.

You see, Mama and I were finally ready to bite the bullet on a hybrid sleigh, and when we looked into financing, we were stunned to learn we’d joined the ranks of the “credit invisibles.” Mother got a kick out of the idea that I could be invisible to anyone, but it was true: Our mortgage and the old sleigh had been paid off for years, and we hadn’t used our card since last winter’s Reindeer Games. It seems our limited credit activity meant the scoring model used by our lender, Snow Bank N.A., couldn’t provide a score for either of us.

We eventually got the loan through some manual underwriting. It took some extra time, but we love the new sleigh. And the bank has put the VantageScore credit scoring model on its wish list to make sure other customers don’t have the same problem.

Do you have any holiday wishes for readers of The Score?

Well, here’s wishing everyone a joyous and safe holiday season, and a prosperous and credit-healthy New Year in 2015.

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