Fourth of July celebrations at home are driving record fireworks sales

A shopper looks through fireworks for sale at Sky King Fireworks in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 24, 2020.

Lucas Jackson | Reuters

If you think you’re hearing more fireworks than usual this year, you probably are.

Firework sellers say they are seeing huge gains in firework sales, with some seeing jumps of 200% to 300% in sales, and even more expected in the days leading up to July Fourth, according to Julie Heckman, president of the American Pyrotechnics Association.

“On the consumer side, sales are off the hook,” Heckman said. “This will be an all-time high.”

Even the earliest Fourth of July celebrations included fireworks. Firework sellers and professional show designers are quick to promote their products as the definitive way to celebrate the holiday. But this year, Covid-19 has prompted the cancellation of thousands of large fireworks displays to celebrate Independence Day. Without these attractions, more people than ever are resorting to at-home firework usage, Heckman said, leading to unexpected increases in sales.

But Heckman and others in the industry have seen higher sales since their stores and stands have opened for the summer. Reports of fireworks, used both legally and illegally, have been up in cities across the U.S. since May.

The Boston Police Department, for example, said they received 2,300% more calls to police over fireworks, which are illegal in Massachusetts, in May than a year ago. New York City, where fireworks are also illegal, received 1,737 complaints about fireworks to the city’s 311 system in the first half of June – 80 times more than the same period last year, according to the New York Times. 

Residents of cities where it is either always legal or legal within a certain time period, such as Detroit, have also reported hearing more at-home fireworks than in prior years.

Companies normally place orders for fireworks over a year in advance with the expectation that sales from the summer holiday season will buoy them through the year, Steve Houser, National Fireworks Association president and Red Rhino Fireworks owner, said. The industry plans to get 80% to 90% of revenue for the year in one to two weeks, he said, so having a strong season is vital to the success of the businesses in the industry.

“Fireworks are hyper-seasonal,” Houser said. “After the Fourth of July, no one cares about us. We disappear.”

Macy’s first night of 4th of July Fireworks on June 29, 2020 in New York City.

Jose Perez | Getty Images

Before the virus began impacting the economy, fireworks sellers were preparing for high sales already, as the holiday this year falls on a Saturday, which has historically led to better sales. But when the lockdowns started in March, Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan said his accounting department was sourcing bankruptcy lawyers out of fear that the coronavirus would lead to this holiday season being celebrated indoors and without fireworks.

Now, Zoldan said, this is the best year for demand he’s seen in his…

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