Consumers are getting less bang for their buck this Independence Day, with the cost of fireworks skyrocketing.
Fireworks wholesalers say the cost of shipping containers carrying their goods from China have more than doubled since last year.
“Often we are paying more to ship the container than the value of what is inside the container,” said Dan Peart, director of government affairs at Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks.
Consumers are paying 20–30 percent more than last year due to the shipping costs, he said.
“We are paying, in some cases, two to three times more,” Peart said. “We’re paying $25,000–$30,000 per container in some instances. It has increased as we’ve gotten closer to the Fourth.”
Several other fireworks wholesalers said they were seeing the same thing—shipping container prices from China well over $30,000—but they were skittish about speaking publicly.
“We don’t have a good answer for why. We are uncomfortable with it,” Peart said. “Our Purchasing and product development team is committed to investigating it and to finding a remedy for it after the fourth.”
Last year was a record year for consumer fireworks sales. Pandemic mitigation efforts caused the cancellation of most public fireworks displays, sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, and movies, leaving few entertainment options.
In 2019, 273 million pounds of fireworks were used in the United States but in 2020, consumption rose to a record-breaking 404.5 million pounds. It was a 48 percent increase in fireworks use, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. That, plus current supply chain problems led to an inventory shortage for some retailers for 2021.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, consumer fireworks retailers are reporting a shortage in inventory nationwide.
“The consumer fireworks industry has experienced delays in fireworks manufacturing in China, a shortage of containers in China to load the fireworks on to ocean vessels, limited capacity on ocean vessels to move fireworks and extreme transportation delays with multi-modal shipments,” the association said in a press release.
Fireworks are transported by ocean vessel to the U.S. ports, then they move by railroad to rail yards near importers facilities, and then they move by truck to the distribution warehouses.
“Approximately 30 [percent] of the consumer fireworks needed for this Independence Day either didn’t make it out of China, are sitting on ocean vessels in the Pacific Ocean waiting to berth at the ports, or they’ve been sitting at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for 9–12 weeks waiting to be put on the rail,” said Julie Heckman, Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. “Consumer fireworks, like many household consumer products, are caught up in the global supply chain disruption resulting from the pandemic.”
She confirmed there has been a substantial increase in transportation-related costs.
“Many fireworks importers have reported that the transportation costs associated with importing a container of product has more than doubled,” Heckman said. “As such, fireworks retailers can’t absorb that significant increase on their own, so consumers can expect a little less bang for the buck when purchasing fireworks for their backyard celebrations.”