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Problems with the global supply chain have impacted nearly every sector of the economy. Now Americans preparing to celebrate Independence Day may find increased prices on the fireworks aisle, or their cities canceling fireworks displays altogether. Stephanie Sy has the story.
As we have been watching, problems with the global supply chain have affected now nearly every sector of the economy.
Now Americans preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July may find increased prices on the fireworks aisle, or their cities canceling fireworks displays altogether.
Stephanie Sy has that story.
The booms of July 4 fireworks have gone bust in many American cities.
Corey Woods, Mayor of Tempe, Arizona: So we're not doing fireworks this year basically due to supply chain issues.
Mayor Corey Woods of Tempe, Arizona, says they realized a few months ago that the city's marquee fireworks extravaganza would be a no-go.
We actually checked with several suppliers and none of them could actually guarantee that we would have them in time for the show.
Fireworks displays around the country are the latest casualty of a combination of economic problems. With fuel prices skyrocketing, importing fireworks has gotten very expensive, says president of the National Fireworks Association, Steve Houser.
Steve Houser, President, National Fireworks Association:
It honestly costs in a lot of cases more to ship the goods here than it does to buy the goods, OK?
So where it used to be that freight was a percentage or a fraction of the cost of the item, now it's half of the cost of the item or more.
Most professional-grade fireworks come from China, which was until recently still in the grips of pandemic lockdowns.
This spring, the American Pyrotechnics Association warned the industry to prepare for a challenging season. Since 2019, shipping costs have risen from $8,000 to $10,000 to nearly $45,000 per shipping container.
And across the fireworks industry, overall costs have increased by 35 percent. And that's as demand for those backyard fireworks, like sparklers and bottle rockets, have increased since the pandemic.
That huge demand came in while we were still struggling through the international shipping issues.
So, really, it's kind of a function of demand was exceeding supply. And that's really why they're seeing some empty shelves and also why you're seeing some of those prices go up.
Stephen Pelkey is the CEO of Atlas PyroVision Entertainment, a family-owned fireworks company in New Hampshire. He says, in the last year, he's thought about how to cut transportation costs.
Stephen Pelkey, CEO, Atlas PyroVision Entertainment:
Many of those things are making adjustments for how we deliver our products, how many trucks we use, when we deliver it, coming up with the most cost-effective way of the routing of these trucks, so we're not having to consume as much fuel.
Another problem facing Pelkey's business is a shortage of pyrotechnicians.
We lost about 15 percent of our technicians that were highly qualified that are no longer in this industry.
In Tempe, Arizona, the mayor says, even in the absence of fireworks, the show must go on.
We're doing a flume show instead at Tempe Beach Bar on July 3.
What's a flume?
Ah. So, a flume is really kind of awesome. It's a sort of display of massive lotus flowers that will float in Tempe Town Lake and that will shoot flames about 30 feet in the air, sort of accompanied with news.
He says it may even be the start of a new July 4 tradition, but, at least this year, expects a fraction of the usual crowd to show.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
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Stephanie Sy is a PBS NewsHour correspondent and serves as anchor of PBS NewsHour West. Throughout her career, she served in anchor and correspondent capacities for ABC News, Al Jazeera America, CBSN, CNN International, and PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior to joining NewsHour, she was with Yahoo News where she anchored coverage of the 2018 Midterm Elections and reported from Donald Trump’s victory party on Election Day 2016.
Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
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