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Fireworks Vendors' Business Booms

Fireworks Vendors' Business Booms

Photo courtesy flickr user "kcphotos" under a Creative Commons 2.0 attribution license.

Sheryl Jean | The Dallas Morning News

Stockbroker Steve Matzke opened his first roadside fireworks stand last year in Princeton to help make up for the slow financial business.Fireworks sales were so good that he added two more Colby Fireworks sites this year.

“With fireworks, everyone’s happy to come see you. That’s not so true with stockbrokers,” said Matzke, whose wife, Debbi, and two of his three children help. “It’s quick setup. You work hard for a couple of weeks, and then you’re done.”

Like summer flowers, fireworks vendors spring up overnight every June 24 with a burst of rainbow colors from the thousands of varieties of fireworks on their shelves. Dallas and Tarrant counties alone have 112 fireworks vendors.

In Texas, fireworks vendors face a short sales period. They work 16-hour days during the hottest time of year, and they deal with growing competition, increasing regulations and the continuing recession. Yet the profit margins are high.

Low entry costs – a $32 annual permit, labor and inventory – attract families and nonprofit groups that want to earn extra money or build a bigger business by selling products with names like killer bee, fiery eye and lighting fly.

“It’s a tough business because you only sell for two weeks twice a year, and you hope that it doesn’t rain on July 4,” said Michael Girdley, president of San Antonio-based Alamo Fireworks Inc., one of the largest fireworks wholesalers and retailers in Texas.

State law generally limits fireworks sales by Texas’ roughly 5,000 vendors from June 24 to July 4 and Dec. 20 to Jan. 1.

Most vendors operate on the edge of cities and on unincorporated land because many Texas cities, including Dallas and Fort Worth, ban the sale and use of fireworks.

Still, Texas fireworks sales rose 20 percent in the past five years to $52 million in 2008. Nationally, fireworks sales hit $940 million last year.

Fireworks vendors say they sell about 80 percent of their stock on July 3 and 4. The average sale is about $60, but some customers spend upward of $1,000 at a time.

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