Fireworks For The Fourth–Boom, Boom Or Bust?

The pandemic brought with it shortages of various items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies. While TP and Clorox wipes are back on the shelves, something else is now in short supply–fireworks. As a result, the ability to celebrate our nation’s birth in fitting fashion, i.e., lighting up the sky with dangerous pyrotechnics that produce smoke, noise, and color, was an iffy proposition this year. Would it be boom, boom or bust for John Q. Citizen on the Fourth?

When threatened with a scary coronavirus, it makes sense folks would need to disinfect their homes; thus, cleaning supplies sold like hot cakes. But why on earth would fireworks be a hot ticket item? The short answer? Boredom and lack of entertainment. After a quarantinee (is that even a word?) has watched every Netflix movie and series (perhaps more than once), what else is there to do? Why go out in the backyard and shoot off some fireworks for fun.

Statistics reveal the skyrocketing (pun intended) popularity of things that go boom boom The fireworks industry experienced record sales in 2020 with revenue nearly doubling from $900 million in 2019 to $1.8 billion in 2020. With public fireworks shows cancelled thanks to COVID-19, in 2020 Americans were forced to produce their own light shows.

During the pandemic, the demand for fireworks was not, however, limited to the Fourth of July. Customers bought them for various occasions including Halloween, New Year’s, and the Super Bowl too. Nothing releases pent up pandemic frustration than making something explode.

Typically fireworks inventories carry over between seasons. Vendors, however, faced empty shelves and the inability to replenish them after 2020. The shortage of fireworks was not just a problem in the United States; the dearth of available fireworks became a global issue. So, everyone in the world found themselves in the same boat–facing a deadly virus without the ability to set fireworks off as they awaited their fate.

Why was there such trouble keeping shelves stocked with fireworks? Several factors contributed to their scarcity. First, due to the pandemic, fireworks factories in China were shut down. So what if the Chinese cannot produce fireworks? Let’s just say Americans rely on products stamped “Made in China.” More than 95% of the fireworks imported to the U.S. have come from that country for years. In fact, the U.S. obtained 255 MILLION pounds of fireworks from the Asian country last year. That’s lot of bang being bought with American bucks.

While American manufacturers do produce some fireworks, imports have outstripped domestic made for a long time. Uncle Sam isn’t the only one ordering things that go bang from China. That country, which originally invented fireworks, is the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.

In addition to Chinese factories being shuttered, shipping issues add to the inability to get what fireworks are available to the U.S. Global container shortages hamper the ability to ship the fireworks, and only about 70% of ships are currently in operation. Fireworks are classified as dangerous goods (ya think?) and given less allotted space on the freighters which are operating.

Once fireworks arrive in the U.S., hurdles still exist to getting them on the shelves for sale to the public. An insufficient number of dockworkers has led to port delays. Labor shortages in this country in the supply chain, specifically of truckers, further adds to the end result of limited fireworks inventory.

Even if fireworks reach a vendor’s shelf, the product may still not be available in the sense that it is too expensive for purchase. Prices in the U.S. this year were projected to be up 15% to 20% over the cost of fireworks last year. Why the increase? Raw materials in China have risen 5% to 8%. Shipping costs have increased 250% to over 300%. Costs going up may mean Americans can’t afford to send fireworks up to celebrate the event of their choice.

And perhaps a bust with a low supply of fireworks is a good thing. If buying fireworks strains the budget, people will opt to attend public fireworks displays presented by professionals trained in shooting fireworks off safely. But who wouldn’t take care when setting fire to something meant to explode with a big bang? Answer? THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 18 fireworks related deaths not connected with a pyrotechnical company in 2020. Injuries from fireworks sent approximately 15,600 to emergency rooms that same year, an increase in the number of injuries from 2019. So, Americans may be getting older, but they aren’t getting safer when handling things that go boom boom.

Sadly, 2021 brought a high profile death to the news as the result of a fireworks mishap. Twenty-four year old professional hockey player Matiss Kivlenicks, a goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets, died from chest trauma from a fireworks mortar blast. One minute Matiss was relaxing and enjoying the holiday in a hot tub. The next he was headed to that big ice rink in the sky.

While Kivlenicks’ death received great media attention as it occurred while the Stanley Cup Finals were underway, thousands of others undoubtedly injured hands and fingers, heads and faces, eyes, ears, legs, and arms while shooting off fireworks. While we’ve all heard to watch out for things that go bump in the night, Americans aren’t doing a good job of be careful with things that go boom in the night sky.

Fireworks are universally loved. People are thrilled to watch explosions overhead in the night sky which display light and color. But the current fireworks shortage may be a blessing in disguise. Does every man, woman, and child need to shoot off these dangerous items themselves? Maybe fireworks are best and most safely viewed when set off by professionals. Let’s keep away from the boom boom makers and save ourselves from the bust of physical injury so we can live to celebrate the next occasion calling for pyrotechnics. And if less Americans buy fireworks, less money ends up in the pocket of a large communist country which is at odds with our country. That result may be an occasion to celebrate. Fireworks, anyone?

Just WONDER-ing:

Did you set off any fireworks this year or did you simply attend a public display? Have you or anyone you know been injured by fireworks? If you knew not buying fireworks would reduce the profit to dangerous country, would that affect your purchasing decision?