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Fireworks harder to find this year
Fireworks - Darrell Austin.jpg
Darrell Austin is preparing for his 52nd year of fireworks sales. He says prices will be slightly higher this year and anyone determined to have fireworks for the Fourth of July should buy early.

Fireworks sales may not be as explosive this year due to a shortage in supply.

One local distributor reports there will be much less variety and higher prices at his stand, while another longtime fireworks dealer says he’s managed to stock a full store with prices expected to increase about 5% to 10%.

Local fireworks sales begin Sunday.

Nathan Smith of Lighthouse Fireworks said he will be operating just one tent this year at Northgate Center, down from three tents last year.

“It will be a lot different this year with less variety and higher prices,” said Smith. “I tried to order as much as I could, but it’s just not available and there’s nothing I can do about it. I won’t have the TNT brand this year at all. The prices were going up anyway because of all the shipping problems. It may look like we’re price gouging, but we’re not. It’s a legitimate price increase and it’s nationwide. It will be better if people come prepared to pay more than they have paid in the past.”

The fireworks supply hasn’t fizzled out as much at Darrell’s Fireworks on Beersheba Highway in Mt. Leo. Business owner Darrell Austin says he’s fortunate to have one supplier who is well-stocked.

“I buy from three main wholesalers in the South Pittsburgh area and two of them are pretty much out,” said Austin, who started selling fireworks at 14 and is preparing for his 52nd year in the business. “One of them, and the one I buy the most from, still has plenty of fireworks. I’ve already gotten a couple small orders and I received a big one on Monday. I should have plenty of fireworks. I’m going to be able to buy the same dollar amount I had last year.”

Austin said the price increase won’t be as much as he expected.

“I really expected a big price jump,” said Austin, “but I think it’s going to be about 5% to 10% on most items.”

Both fireworks stand owners say all fireworks come from China. COVID caused somewhat of a problem due to shutdowns. Now shipping issues are creating another headache and disrupting the supply chain, they say.

“The fireworks factories operate around the clock every day of the year,” said Smith. “Because of the COVID shutdowns, I’ve heard it may take three years before the fireworks inventory completely catches back up.”

As for shipping, Smith said, “It’s the same problem that’s affecting furniture and really everything. China keeps shipping but it’s getting bottle-necked on the West Coast.”

Austin said the cost to transport each shipping container has increased $1,560 from last year. He echoed Smith’s comments that ships are experiencing long waits to get into port.

“Everything we get from Asia goes to the Los Angeles harbor, which is normally backed up by about three weeks,” said Austin. “That got up to as much as a three-month wait just to get in, although now I think that’s down to about six weeks.”

More fireworks are on the way, both say, but it’s iffy whether those shipments will arrive and make it across the country in time for Independence Day.

“Last year was the first year I’ve ever sold out on the Fourth of July,” said Austin. “I usually have a big sale on July 5 with everything leftover, but last year I was completely out July 4 at 5 p.m. so I shut down and went home.”

Added Smith, “The key is going to be to buy early this year or there’s going to be a bunch of upset people on the Fourth.”