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Independence Day: Do July 4 droughts hurt fireworks sales?

Independence Day 2012 coincides with devastating wildfires across Colorado, resulting in a statewide ban on fireworks. But droughts are a common feature of the Independence Day holiday season, and the fireworks industry has found ways to cope with Mother Nature.

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It's also an increasingly profitable business. In fact according to figures from the APA, fireworks sales in the US have doubled since 1998, and states that allow consumer sales can look to bring in between $500,000 and $1 million dollars a year in tax revenue alone. Fourteen years ago, fireworks companies earned $141 million in revenue through large-scale displays, and another $284 million was made in consumer sales. By last year, those figures had risen to $318 and $649 million, respectively.

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“Personal sales, that’s where this industry has really grown over the past decade,” Heckman says. “We’ve seen a significant trend in states liberalizing sales since 2000.”

Perhaps due to reported decreases in the number of fireworks-related injuries, or perhaps due to the ever-increasing potential for tax revenue, in the ten years a dozen states have regulations on the fireworks purchasable in stores, including six legislative alterations in the past two years.  Currently, only Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey maintain all-out bans.

If you do live in a state that is in the middle of a dry spell, check with your local fire department for updates on possible firework restrictions or burn bans. Fires sparked by inappropriate or banned firework usage are not only dangerous, they're illegal.

If consumer fireworks are legally sold in your area, John Werner of the NFA says a rather cutthroat industry and very small selling window helps ensure prices stay affordable. “Apples to apples everyone is pretty much on the same page,” Werner says. “In a lot of cases it’s a friendly rivalry to outsell each other. Everybody knows what everybody else is doing.”

In terms of variety, as well as the best possible bang for your buck, families with children can never go wrong with a good assortment kit, adds William A. Weimer, of Phantom.

“The reality is 65 to 70 percent of our buying groups are families,” he says. “It’s becoming more and more a family oriented experience, rather than just some boys blowing things up.”

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