BLOOM, Pa. (KDKA) -- As the days dwindle before the Fourth of July, so does the supply of available fireworks.
"There is definitely a shortage of fireworks," says Phantom Fireworks Vice President Bill Weimer.
And the reasons are pandemic related.
The slowdown in world shipping has resulted in a shipping container shortage in China. There's not enough space on the container ships, and the ships that do reach the U.S. shore find themselves waiting to unload, often sitting and waiting their turn.
"Ships have been known to sit off ashore for a week to 10 days before they can pull in and get a berth."
But docking doesn't end the issue. Weimer says once the containers hit the ground they sit and sit: "We actually have containers in Long Beach right now that were offloaded from the ships on April 14."
And when they finally do get someone to move them this direction it is not cheap.
"Our actual cost of transportation for from 2020 to 2021, has more than doubled."
This means once the fireworks do hit the store shelves the retailers have to recoup those costs. "We're trying our best, we just cannot absorb all of that. And some of that has to be passed on to the consumer."
While customers walking into the stores right now might not notice a major difference, Weimer says that won't last. While there will see be something available he suggests you will "but not find exactly what you're looking for."
Ironically Weimer says, "Last year was the biggest year the fireworks industry has ever had, ever." He says so many people celebrated at home it wiped his store shelves clean and the supply chain has not been able to restore the supply. On top of that, "We got a lot of new customers last year. And demand is strong now. We're seeing a lot of those new customers from last year return this year."
Meanwhile, when it comes to public displays there is not the same concern. Weimer says, "So many of our friends in the public display business had absolutely a terrible year last year. Municipalities, Country Club businesses that do firework shows they canceled them right and left."
But that means, "They still have their product from last year. So they'll be fine this year."
Bottom line, if you are planning to celebrate at home and want to be able to choose, not just settle for what's available Weimer says shop early.
The supply void is so vast Weimer and others in the industry are not confident it will recover before next year's celebrations."
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