Fireworks may soon be hard to find on shelves in the United States, thanks to sizzling sales fueled by bored Americans emerging from coronavirus lockdowns.
Owners of fireworks companies and industry leaders told CNN stocks are rapidly diminishing after demand for sparklers and firecrackers has more than doubled this year as people sought a way to sonically bust out of quarantine.
“People were coming outdoors for the first time and they wanted something to do,” Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan said. “And the entertainment is consumer fireworks.”
Zoldan, who owns one of the country’s largest fireworks companies, said he was initially debating whether to file bankruptcy since he didn’t think he’d be able to move his merchandise amid the pandemic.
But his 1.2 million square foot distribution center that was packed just four weeks ago is now depleted, Zoldan said.
Another owner of a fireworks company in Indiana said he’s had the busiest season of his 30-plus year career, prompting him to hire additional staff.
“We’ve been working harder, longer hours and probably twice a week for the past two or three weeks,” Robert Tomsich of Lightning Family Fireworks in Gary told the Chicago Tribune Tuesday. “We’ve been scrambling.”
And once stocks are depleted, it’ll be difficult to restock. Imports from China, where more than 90% of the world’s fireworks are manufactured, have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many factories there.
As a result, Chinese exports dropped to near-zero in January — and the United States imported 35% fewer fireworks in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period a year ago, CNN reports.
“I think by July 5th, there probably will not be very many fireworks available in the United States until China can start producing again and shipping here,” Zoldan said.
Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Associations, told CNN there are typically 16,000 July Fourth fireworks shows across the US each year.
However, with mass cancelations of Independence Day shows — as well as weddings and sporting events — she said “we’re probably looking at about 10% max going forward.”
This sudden drop in demand for professional fireworks sent the demand for bottle rockets, sparklers and other consumer fireworks soaring. Demand for consumer fireworks rose at least 115% percent compared to 2019, CNN reports.
China’s production of fireworks generally increases during the winter months, but that may not be possible this year due to the closed factories.
“It’s a really bizarre situation that we have one segment of the industry that’s going to have a record-breaking year, and the other side of the industry is potentially crippled forever,” Heckman told CNN.
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