Just in time for July 4th, America’s latest shortage is … fireworks


Americans rushing to buy fireworks for July 4 of this year are going to find limited selection and higher prices – or empty shelves.

From toilet paper to beef, shortages and booming supply chains have been a major side effect of the pandemic since lockdown storage sent lines of shopping carts to stores and shelves emptied in March 2020. Now this are the fireworks supplies that last long.

The fireworks industry warns that supply before Independence Day will be down about 30% this year due to supply chain issues. Last year, the United States imported around 255 million pounds of fireworks, mostly from China, according to data from research firm IHS Markit. Companies increased their orders after record sales last year approached $ 2 billion, meaning this year there could be a shortfall of more than 76 million pounds of fireworks. artifice.

Fireworks enthusiasts travel to several states to collect enough produce for a decent garden display for friends and family.

They say it’s harder to get what they want and the prices are high, but they get what they can before the shelves are empty.

Jason Lewis, a retired Oklahoma tattoo artist, said he normally presents shows until one hour at an annual backyard barbecue gathering of about 50 families and friends on the 4th. July. This year he’s been through three states and, spending a little less than last year, was only able to rack up about half.

“Do you want to be a neighborhood legend? Buy early for the best selection. “

“At a stand in Texas he had a 500 gram repeater that I saw last year for $ 40. He wanted $ 115, ”Lewis said. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m done, I’m going to go somewhere else.’ But I didn’t know it was the same everywhere.

Normally he puts on the whole show. This year he said he will go “share,” asking guests to bring any fireworks they see along the way – telling friends, “Don’t be shocked by [price] surprises. Get what you can. “

Andrew John, 33, a software developer, said he has so far visited eight stores in Wyoming to gather his supplies. “Everyone has at least one bare shelf or fills the missing product with other products on the shelf,” he said. “The hardest hit places are small stores… which don’t have a warehouse to restock.”

In nationwide department stores, prices rose 30%, said William Weimer, vice president and general counsel of Phantom Fireworks, a national consumer fireworks retailer, to control demand and pass on rising costs. shipping they cannot avoid.

“We are trying to do our best to try to absorb some of the costs,” he said. “In some cases, we pay more for freight than for product. “

Small vendors and roadside tent operators scramble for supplies. Some abandon the business altogether or limit their operations. “Due to a shortage of products, we are closed,” read a sign last week on a shipping container turned into a fireworks stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

A roadside fireworks stand in Cheyenne, Wyo. posted a notice on June 18, 2021, saying it was closed due to a supply shortage.André Jean

Shortages and shipping delays have affected a wide range of consumer products since the pandemic began last year, from ketchup packets to furniture to computer chips. Consumers have shifted their spending from the closed entertainment and leisure industries to purchasing goods, increasing demand and decreasing the availability of container ships. At the same time, Covid-19 control measures and labor supply issues have reduced the number of longshoremen and truck drivers needed to get supplies from ships to stores.

Fireworks face unique shipping issues as only a handful of shipping companies currently accept them. Of these, a limited number of ships are available – and among these ships, only a limited part of their cargo space can be allocated to materials classified as hazardous, such as fireworks.

Logistics companies cater to larger customers with more stable volumes, such as larger retailers.

“Container capacity has been in short supply for some time now. Add to that the imbalance of ships blocking the Suez Canal – it has driven up the price of containers, ”said Glenn Koepke, senior vice president of customer success at FourKites, the logistics software company, in a report. -mail. “Companies that have a stable and committed volume with steamboat lines get the service they need, where companies that have a very cyclical business with erratic container demand find it difficult to get capacity on. the boats.”

While fireworks are shipped year round, volumes start to increase in March and April. Most of the industry’s annual revenue is made in the week leading up to July 4th.

Shipping containers full of fireworks wait offshore, especially the heavily backed California port of Long Beach, industry experts say, where some containers wait up to 60 days to be unloaded. But even then, it may take another 100 days for the drivers to pick them up, said Ed Vasel, vice president of the National Fireworks Association, an industry trade group.

“What could be a booming business is just not happening,” he said. “The people are there, the demand is there, the product is not there.”

For the best value, buy 200 gram “cakes”, which are smaller blocks of fused fireworks, said Jim Reida, who features “pyromusicals” or fireworks set. in music.

“I’m getting pretty creative with these,” he said. “They are probably buying value, there is more in one case.”

To help you beat the higher prices, look for stores that offer discounted sales and manager specials, although you may need to subscribe to the store’s mailing list. Shoppers can also check the store’s social media feed for coupons.

“Do you want to be a neighborhood legend? Buy early for the best selection, ”said Joe VanOudenhove III, co-owner of Florida-based fireworks chain Sky King.


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