Corrections & Clarifications: Josh Pappas is a spokesperson for Superior Fireworks. His job title was incorrect in a previous version of this article.
Planning to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend with fireworks this year? It’ll cost you.
The fireworks shortage that has plagued shoppers over the past two years seems to have run its course, but the industry isn't done with supply chain interruptions yet. Experts warn that an increase in shipping rates, raw materials and labor costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a steep price increase for fireworks this year.
“Unfortunately, we had to pass some of the price increases on to the public,” said Bruce Zoldan, president and CEO of consumer fireworks distributor Phantom Fireworks. “I would say from 2019 till ’22, (costs) have at least doubled.”
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Why did firework prices spike?
Suppliers say it's getting more expensive to bring in fireworks into the U.S. and sell them to consumers.
Overall costs are up 35% across the fireworks industry, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, which represents the consumer fireworks industry. An April report from the trade association points to increased costs for raw materials, shipping and transportation, insurance and labor.
Stephen Pelkey, president of the association and owner of New Hampshire-based retail outlet Atlas Fireworks, noted that most of his store clerks make a minimum of $15 to $18 an hour, compared with $12 to $15 four years ago.
And shipping costs to import the products from China – which is the source of about 95% of consumer fireworks sold in the U.S. – have skyrocketed over the past three years, according to the fireworks association. Importing product costs about $45,000 per shipping container today compared with $8,000 to $10,000 in 2019.
Pelkey says the price of products has gone up 10% to 15% since 2019 at his four retail stores, and Superior Fireworks spokesperson Josh Pappas estimated the price increase for retail and wholesale companies is closer to 40%. Zoldan said prices have risen 20% to 30% over just the past year.
Is there a fireworks shortage?
The cancellation of public firework shows in 2020 and 2021 prompted a dramatic increase in firework sales as families turned to at-home displays. That surge in demand, paired with supply chain problems, led to two consecutive years of firework shortages.
“It created a huge, huge demand on the fireworks industry that we weren’t prepared for,” Pappas said. “We sold through all the product that we had. Everybody was placing massive new orders for production going into 2021 and still really couldn't get ahead of it.”
While families could see some popular items out of stock for the Fourth of July, retailers and distributors say they are better prepared to match demand this year.
Zoldan said Phantom is receiving 75% to 80% of its orders on time this year compared with 50% in 2020 and 2021.
“We’re still not getting 100%, but we’re in much better shape than we were the previous two years,” he said.
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Experts suggest shopping early for the best selection and deals.
"If you want to avoid the crowds, if you want to make sure that you get the colored sparklers that you want or the right fountain that you watch, you have to shop a bit early or you just take a chance of what is running low," Pelkey said.
He added that many companies tend to run sales from Memorial Day weekend through the end of June, so shopping early can help cut costs.
Zoldan also suggests looking for coupons online or waiting until after July Fourth for deals.
"We'll have special sales throughout summer," he said.
2021 fireworks shortage: Phantom Fireworks urges customers to shop early amid fireworks shortage.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why are July Fourth fireworks prices so high in 2022?