Marketwatch.com, Published: June 15, 2019 7:33 a.m. ET
The Chinese tariff fight could blow up America’s Fourth of July fireworks tradition
The 25% tariffs could hurt family-owned businesses central to American celebrations.
Fireworks industry members, who rely deeply on China’s pyrotechnic products, are worried possible tariffs would explode the bottom line for many businesses and darken skies. The 25% tariffs that Trump has threatened would hurt the industry’s many family-owned businesses, they say, as well as small towns and nonprofits that use firework displays as fundraisers.
Right now, consumer- and professional-grade fireworks are not subject to the 25% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, but Trump is threatening another round of 25% tariffs on approximately $300 billion and those could include fireworks.
Ninety-nine percent of backyard fireworks, like sparklers, cone fountain fireworks and firecrackers, come from China and 75% of professional-grade display fireworks come from the country, Heckman said. America’s fireworks industry imports 270 million pounds of fireworks from China and makes around $1.3 billion in annual revenue, she noted.
Vince Bellino, general manager of Bellino Fireworks based in Papillion, Neb., said tariffs could cut into his bottom line, but it’s not just about him and the business his parents started almost 40 years ago.
Bellino Fireworks has 200 temporary summer locations and needs summer help to staff them. Public school teachers often make up about half the temporary staff — and it’s no secret many teachers need the extra cash.
Consumers buy an average of $55 in fireworks from the business, Bellino said. Even if average purchase amounts stay the same, Bellino said they’d be buying less, meaning smaller inventories and fewer staff.
In 1998, firework sellers made $141 million in display fireworks revenue and the earned $360 million in 2018, the trade association said. During that same time, consumer fireworks revenue shot from $284 million to $945 million.