Is it really ‘Rocket Science?’ China has long been the secret ingredient to celebrating American independence, but something is very different in 2020, COVID-19; the Coronavirus is cutting into the supply chain of hundreds of industries, including fireworks, with more than 90 percent of them coming from China.
For decades, importing fireworks from China has been the lifeblood of the US fireworks market. Although there have been many US pyrotechnic entrepreneurs that have manufactured professional grade pyrotechnics, that was never the case for consumer fireworks for small family mom and pop shops across the country. China, with its once very simple order and receive process that takes 90 to 120 days, has now evolved into a perfect storm of calamities. In the last 10 years, fireworks from China has continually been disrupted with one complication after another. Beginning with shipping and port issues due to accidents not always born by fireworks, but many other factors including port congestion with the increasing demand for all sorts of China products. Now let’s throw another twist into the list of complications in China. Enter COVID-19, with its epicenter in Wuhan, China just one province away from the fireworks manufacturing capital of China – Hunan. The Coronavirus has now brought the entire fireworks industry to a virtual standstill, and that means less of those firecrackers, sparklers and ‘bombs bursting in air’ for this 4th of July.
“Most of us in the pyrotechnics business have long dealt with delays in China due to port congestion, factory recertifications and safety upgrades, reduced amounts of skilled factory workers, increasing shutdowns for holidays including three weeks for Chinese Lunar New Year, now front and center – the Coronavirus. With workers returning (if they can) most factories are only at 60-70 percent capacity. For those of us that have been carrying a higher than average inventory year to year – we should be ok for 2020. The looming fear is that for those small businesses that are heavily reliant on fireworks arriving in the Spring for the upcoming 4th of July – that will be a challenge,” said Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Atlas PyroVision Entertainment. “Even if all factories were up and running in the next week, the Coronavirus has impacted so many others that are critical in the shipping distribution network, including arriving ships fearing a mandatory quarantine if a single worker shows symptoms of the Coronavirus.”
For now, the reality is that the Coronavirus is not only wreaking havoc on China but is spreading throughout the world on fears of a “pandemic.” In the US, large and small public events are being cancelled, school closings and the list is growing daily until there are sure signs the virus is contained. Is that another week, month to month – nobody knows at this point.
“A city or town scheduling their July 4th events, or the average person looking to buy fireworks for their 4th of July party, you won’t see empty store shelves, but it may cost a little more,” said Pelkey. “There have been too many increasing factors that are causing these sudden increases – some are supply and demand issues as well as prior higher tariff costs and changes in distribution methods which ultimately bring higher costs.”
The short-term reality is that some of your favorite fireworks will be out of stock sooner. All we can do is communicate with our suppliers daily, remain positive and continue to keep our customers informed as new developments arise,” said Pelkey.
Pelkey stated that Atlas is fortunate that they are in pretty good shape for this 4th of July, but the challenge will be moving forward with orders already being placed for 2021.