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Fireworks stuck at sea, pandemic casts cloud over July 4 celebrations

Cons. Discr. - Durables 407 Coronavirus 479 U.S. 4937

The National Fireworks Association has warned that congestion in U.S. seaports have doubled shipping times from China to 60 days, Freightwaves reports, and that is “hampering our ability to put products on the shelf for our seasonal small business owners“. The fireworks sector is highly seasonal, driven in large part in the U.S. by the July 4 holiday season. The leisure goods industry more broadly has struggled with congestion in the past few months, including the toymakers, as discussed in Panjiva’s research of March 5, and fitness equipment producers.

Panjiva’s data shows that U.S. imports of fireworks historically peak in the March to June period with the absolute peak in May. Much of the commentary from the container lines suggest that port congestion will continue through much of the first half, providing some credence to the NFA’s concerns. 

Total imports in 2020 fell by 5.6% year over year as a result of the pandemic, with imports back end loaded in peak shipping season. It’s worth noting many of the purchase orders will have been placed well before pandemic-related event closures were announced.

Shipments in the first two months of 2021, admittedly before peak season starts, indicate a tough start to the firework import season with seaborne imports having fallen by 1.6% year over year in January and February combined.

Fireworks supplies depend on Chinese factories, peak season shipping

Chart shows U.S. imports of fireworks by month. Data for 2021 based on seaborne imports.  Source: Panjiva

Aside from the seasonality there’s also challenges of fragmentation for even the largest fireworks importers, with the top three only accounting for 35.0% of total imports in 2020. Among the top three fireworks importers the only significant growth in the first two months of the year was in shipments linked to Winco Fireworks with shipments that rose by 36.9% year over year. 

Imports associated with Jake’s Fireworks and Anderson News fell by 32.9% and 37.4% respectively over the same period. The latter may reflect early challenges with offloading fireworks as well as a more conservative approach to the return to mass events as vaccinations spread.

Fireworks imports yet to catch light in 2021

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of fireworks by consignee.  Source: Panjiva

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