Fourth of July the ‘Bread and Butter’ of Fireworks Retailers

(Sun Sentinel/MCT) -

The Fourth of July is upon us, and fireworks retailers are counting on swarms of customers and explosive sales.

“The Fourth of July is the bread and butter of the industry,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. The summertime holiday generally accounts for 75 to 85 percent of fireworks retailers’ annual sales.

Last year, U.S. consumers bought $645 million worth of fireworks, which was a drop of $4 million from 2011. Heckman attributed the decrease to a worse-than-usual drought season nationally.

To capitalize on this year’s festivities, some vendors are trying to lure customers by offering entertainment outside their stores, hiring additional employees and setting up roadside outlets.

The employees of Donny Aaron’s Arsenal of Fireworks in Boca Raton, Fla. ran a tight schedule to make sure the store was ready for the 5,000 to 6,000 shoppers expected before Independence Day.

Bins of sparklers and shelves of fireworks line the 6,000-square-foot “room full of boom,” as general manager Samuel “Senator” Pearlstein likes to call it. Shopping carts were being refitted with new wheels and tents erected to shade customers. Musicians and face painters were hired to entertain those who will have to wait before they can enter the showroom.

With a party atmosphere outside and more than 20 new products inside, Pearlstein hopes to present shoppers with a “high-end” experience.

“We are the Tiffany of fireworks,” Pearlstein said.

Purchases around the Fourth account for roughly 50 to 60 percent of the store’s annual sales. The other 40 to 50 percent comes around the time of other holidays.

At the TNT Fireworks Supercenter in Dania Beach, Fla., preparations begin early.

“On July 5, we begin planning for the next year,” said Itzhak Dickstein, president.

Dickstein believes this approach allows him and his staff to analyze which strategies worked, which failed and what adjustments need to be made for next year.

This year, Dickstein is bringing in more than 140 additional employees to assist his 10-person, year-round staff. Their goal is to sell nearly all the fireworks and sparklers housed in their 40,000-square-foot showroom.

The rest of the year, the supercenter ships fireworks to the Caribbean and South America.

Weston, Fla.-based Fireworks Lady & Co. LLC takes a different approach to selling fireworks before the Fourth of July and New Year’s: The company sells exclusively through tents it sets up across Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“I’m the pink elephant in the room,” said owner Patricia Taime-Haslett, 51. “I’m not like all the other guys.”

Thirteen years ago, she used to operate fireworks tents for TNT Fireworks before leaving to start her own company.

This stripped-down approach means that Taime-Haslett doesn’t have to pay many of the usual costs of doing business, including shipping and mortgage. The profits from Fireworks Lady are sufficient to pay all her business expenses, she said.

Despite the seasonal nature of the fireworks industry, Dickstein is confident that holiday revelers will continue to fire up sales year after year.

“It’s part of the heart of America,” he said.