Fourth of July

Fireworks Now a ‘Hot Commodity' Due to Pandemic-Related Supply Shortages

Those working fireworks stands are urging consumers to shop early because supply is very low

NBCUniversal, Inc.

What to Know

  • Be prepared to pay more and expect limited selection or even empty shelves.
  • Supply ahead of Independence Day will be down about 30% this year due to supply chain issues, industry experts say.
  • Use proper safety procedures whenever using fireworks and be aware of local laws prohibiting their use.

The latest supply shortage consumers are experiencing in America is fireworks. The timing couldn't be worse with the Fourth of July just around the corner.

North Texans rushing out to buy fireworks for Independence Day this year should prepare to pay more and find a limited selection or even empty shelves.

Experts say supply shortages are just the standard now due to the economic effects of COVID-19.

"Last summer we sold out, everybody did. Some people closed early on July 3,” said Dave Rich, owner of Black Cat Fireworks Outlet in Denton County.

Rich said he has been doing this for 23 years and has never seen anything like it. He said the supply situation is so dire that he had to stock up eight months ago in the fall just for the Fourth of July holiday and warns that other stands who didn't stock up will run into problems fast.

"Anybody that waited to get their stock for this year made a mistake. They'll run out of stock on the second or third of July,” said Rich.

The fireworks industry warns that supply ahead of Independence Day will be down about 30% this year due to supply chain issues.

James Fuller, a Dallas-based safety expert for TNT Fireworks stands and former chief of staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates consumer fireworks safety, says the issue with the fireworks supply is similar to problems we're seeing with other shortages like air conditioning parts and lumber.

According to Fuller, China is a huge fireworks supply source, but manufacturing came to a halt last year during the pandemic. When the supply chain tried to move again, the huge demand caused troubles while trying to push products through U.S. ports because only certain shipping lines accept hazardous material like fireworks in their cargo.

"There's a very unique season for fireworks where we order a lot of our product, and what happened for this industry is that the timing didn't work well when you put it up against the pandemic,” he said. “As China shut down on supply and we saw more supply chains starting to stop to help curb the pandemic, that was right when the fireworks industry was ordering product. And then when we had the complications with the shortages of containers that go on the ships. Lastly, we had the Suez Canal incident."

He's referring to the huge cargo ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March, further preventing the flow of supply around the world during a crucial time of recovery from last year’s shutdowns.

“Container capacity has been at a shortage for some time now. Couple that with the imbalance of vessels from the Suez Canal blockage — this has sent container pricing through the roof,” Glenn Koepke, SVP of Customer Success at FourKites logistics software company, told NBC News. “Companies that have stable and committed volume with steamship lines are getting the service they need, where companies that have a very cyclical business with lumpiness in container demand are struggling to get capacity on vessels.”

According to NBC News, the United States imported about 255 million pounds of fireworks last year, mostly from China. Companies increased their orders after record-breaking sales in 2020 neared $2 billion, meaning there could be a shortfall of over 76 million pounds of fireworks this year.

Safety First

While people look forward to purchasing fireworks for the holiday, Fuller – a former firefighter – is also stressing common-sense safety reminders while celebrating.

  • Have a water source nearby like a hose or buckets of water in case of a fire.
  • Supervise your kids and do not allow young children to play with fireworks
  • Don't mix fireworks and alcohol.
  • When you're done, douse the leftover fireworks with water before throwing them in the trash.
Contact Us