Fireworks sales booming for retailers
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 30, 2014 11:06PM
Scott Varney of Muskegon, Michigan, left, and his son, Tony, shop for fireworks on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at Shelton Fireworks in Porter. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2014 10:00PM
PORTER — Scott Varney and his son, Tony, busily filled two shopping carts with fireworks on a recent afternoon at Shelton Fireworks in Porter.
“We’ve been coming here for over 10 years. They’re legal in Michigan but we still come here. It’s tradition,” Scott Varney said, adding he and his son took a half-day off work to drive to the store from their home in Muskegon, Michigan.
The duo typically spends more than $1,000 to put on an hour-long show for family and friends at their beach house.
“This year, (the Fourth of July) being on a Friday is awesome for us,” Scott Varney said.
And it’s awesome for retailers as well, who said a long weekend sends fireworks sales booming, especially after a drought two years ago, which cut the use of pyrotechnics, and cool, wet weather last year.
The American Pyrotechnics Association reports that sales are off to a brisk start. Fireworks revenues have climbed steady from $600 million in 2006 to $662 million last year, and sales could exceed $675 million for this year — if the weather cooperates.
“It’s all about Mother Nature at this point, but it’s shaping up to be a very good year,” said Julie Heckman, the association’s executive director. “Retailers always do very well when the Fourth of July falls on a Friday.”
She’s hearing anecdotally from association members that sales are strong, and having the holiday on a Friday makes for even better sales than if the Fourth of July lands on a Monday.
At Shelton, sales manager Gary Shelton said sales are looking up this year after being off the past two years because of the weather.
‘This year will hopefully go better. We’re kind of a barometer of the economy,” he said, also crediting the long weekend for boosting sales.
With the Porter store right off Interstate 94 on U.S. 20, Shelton said he gets customers from Chicago to Detroit who stop in as they’re passing by. The store also has a location in Burns Harbor.
The interstate brought in Dan Errico of Oak Lawn, Illinois, who’s been coming to Shelton for 20 years. He usually has a big group of people over at his house for the holiday.
“I just buy the poppers and lava that don’t go off the ground,” he said. “It’s for the nieces and nephews, because we have a lot of little kids.”
Krazy Kaplan’s, with six locations in Lake County and one in LaPorte County, also is seeing an uptick in business. Sales in May were stronger this year than last year and June is even better, said owner Greg Kaplan.
Some people will take July 3 off and stretch out the holiday weekend, and extend their use of fireworks.
“With it falling on a Friday, it has a major impact on your sales, and a psychological impact on people,” said Kaplan, who also is vice president of the Indiana Fireworks Distributors Association. “They’re going to buy more because they have time to enjoy it.”
He expects people who stay at home for the long weekend to have a few days of cookouts — and fireworks.
“The people who are your fireworks enthusiasts are doing it bigger and better,” he said.