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Firework popularity takes off as international shortage makes demand tough to meet

He says firework popularity is at a peak because of people looking to put on their own shows during the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The fireworks business is quite literally booming.

"We sold over double in 2020 what we did in 2019," says Greg Johnson, owner of Fireworks Superstore in Grand Rapids.

In Johnson's decades of selling fireworks, he's never seen demand like this. He says firework popularity is at a peak because of people looking to put on their own shows during the pandemic.

"A lot of people were new to fireworks last year," says Johnson. "They wanted something to do and fireworks seemed like fun."

The new demand, however, has been challenging to meet. Johnson says we're in the middle of a firework shortage that began in China.

"They had a factory blow up, then they had a port close down to fireworks and then they didn't have enough drivers to bring it down," explains Johnson.

Which means putting on an event this year could cost a lot more than in the past.

"The price of shipping doubled from last year, so there's definitely price increases from last year," he says.

And that's if the product even makes it to the United States in the first place. Johnson says he usually receives shipments 25 days after placing an order. This year, it's closer to 50.

"So all that stuff shipped in mid-May that always makes it into the country, none of that's coming until after the Fourth of July," says Johnson.

His store has been able to weather the shortage by thinking ahead.

"We always plan for something weird," says Johnson. "We weren't thinking a pandemic, but we always buy two years of fireworks because we're open year-round."

But other locations haven't been as fortunate.

"Some small tents aren't getting anything," he says. "Their suppliers cut them off because they're also retail and they don't have enough stuff to give up."

Johnson says if you want to ensure you have fireworks this summer, you'll want to buy them well in advance. He suggests shopping around as well to avoid inevitable price gouging.

"If we have it we're not going to raise our prices unless the price is raised to us," says Johnson.

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