Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Business

July 3, 2011

Local fireworks vendors aspire with ambition

— Sales had been steady as of last week for Black Cats, Snap-n-Pops, Googles, Crackling Balls, Whistling Petes and warehouses full of other things that go boom in the night, store owners and managers said.

By today, Kokomo area fireworks vendors expected to have been almost wiped out.

Fireworks stores last week expected larger last-minute rushes compared to previous years. That is largely because the Fourth of July holiday falls on a Monday, which means most shoppers looking to enjoy a bout of temporary pyromania were likely to wait until the weekend to stock up.

“When you get about to the Fourth, you’ll get people spending 300 or 400 bucks [on fireworks] to take to the lake house,” said Jake Boswell, a manager at USA Fireworks in Kokomo Plaza at the corner of U.S. 31 and Carter Street.

Draped across buildings, fiery colored banners have advertised “Buy 1, Get 1,” and costume-wearing employees have been waving arrows to pluck customers from heavily traveled roads.

The flashy approach to business is often necessary for stores that are open for only a few weeks a year, said Steve Graves, executive director of the Indiana Fireworks Users Association.

Fireworks stores and tents statewide pull in between $2 million and $3 million every year. With limited time to sell, that leaves a competitive market, he said.

Low prices are the consistent advertisement among the businesses. To keep up with competitors, some shop owners scout in other stores to check out their deals or under-cut competitor prices.

“It’s a shark-eat-shark business,” Joe Wampler, owner of Best Price Fireworks at the northeast corner of Markland Avenue and Plate Street, said with a laugh.

Wampler, who spends most of his year working as pastor of a church in Monticello and as an appraiser, advertises around his store and the rest of Kokomo that he has the best-priced fireworks in the area.

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