Jay Bowen remembers last year’s Fourth of July, when last-minute shoppers would come to his fireworks stand near Sedro-Woolley only to find limited stock.
“They’d ask, ‘Got any sparklers?’ … ‘Got any family packs?’” he said.
Often, he had to tell them no. Due to COVID-19 disrupting the global supply chain, Bowen had little to offer.
And while the pandemic has eased in the U.S., Bowen is concerned those who want to purchase fireworks may face similar disappointment this year.
He said there are signs that the supply chain — including for fireworks that originate in China — will once again shake up supplies as the Fourth of July approaches.
“It’s a shock for our industry, for retail sales. We have to educate (customers) as to why prices are going to be increased, why selection (may be less) … If you come late in the year you may not get anything for your barbecue,” he said.
James Fuller, safety expert at TNT Fireworks — a national company that has been in business for more than a century and has many customers in the Pacific Northwest — said while TNT has allocated its resources efficiently, the disruptions have been noticeable.
“The entire industry has been affected. We’ve seen shortages across the supply chain, from capacity to delays at the ports to available containers to get your products put into,” he said.
Both Bowen and Fuller encourage customers not to wait until the morning of the Fourth to buy their fireworks.
“The sad look on their face. It breaks my heart,” Bowen said, recalling late-arriving customers last year. “I don’t want to face that.”
Loggerodeo President Dottie Chandler, who’s overseeing the return of Sedro-Woolley’s annual celebration, said she hasn’t heard of any problems through the Loggerodeo fireworks show provider.
The use and sale of fireworks is governed by state and local regulations, and those who want to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks are encouraged by local governments and law enforcement to know what kinds of fireworks are permitted for use — and when they’re allowed — in their communities.