Last year Americans fired off a record-setting 416 million pounds of fireworks, reports the American Pyrotechnics Association. Even more are expected this year.
But fireworks aren’t the only thing soaring. Amid skyrocketing inflation, lighting up this Fourth of July will likely burn a hole in your pocket. So will traveling out of town, or serving traditional San Antonio celebration staples like barbacoa and Big Red.
The U.S. government reported consumer prices climbed 8.6% over the past year through May, the fastest rate of increase in more than 40 years.
Prices for fireworks are following that trend. Retailers, particularly smaller ones, are dealing with rising costs, stemming largely from supply chain snarls, and grappling with how much of those costs to pass on to consumers. The industry has seen costs rise 35% this year, the pyrotechnics trade association reported.
The biggest factor has been shipping costs, which have roughly quadrupled. The overwhelming majority of fireworks are produced in China, but fireworks have had to compete alongside other goods to be unloaded at backlogged West Coast ports.
Julie Heckman, the association’s executive director, said earlier this year a handful of large retailers chartered shipping vessels for the sole purpose of importing fireworks into Gulf of Mexico ports.
“So now there is plenty of product — but that product came at a premium price,” Heckman said.
That’s not true everywhere though. Prices at San Antonio-based Alamo Fireworks, which has stores across Texas, aren’t any higher for July Fourth than they were for New Year’s Eve, said Chelsea Bode, the company’s communications director.
“We did have some price increases last season after the disruptions in freight and fuel started, and we tried our best to predict the trajectory of these increases to set prices for at least the next couple of seasons,” Bode said in an email.
Bexar County has temporarily banned the sale and use of certain fireworks — skyrockets with sticks and missile with fins — until the countywide burn ban is lifted or until July 18, whichever comes sooner.
Food is another source of rising celebration costs. In the last 12 months, the consumer price index showed grocery prices have risen 11.9% on average.
Take for example a festive Fourth of July meal consisting of a pound of barbacoa, a 2-liter bottle of Big Red, an avocado and a pack of tortillas. Two years ago, the price of this meal was roughly $13. Now a similar meal will cost at least $16.
And if you’re traveling to see family or friends, buckle up for more costs.
Soaring gas prices mean that an out-of-town trip will cost nearly double. Using AAA’s trip calculator, and assuming the vehicle used is a Ford F-150, a roundtrip drive to Corpus Christi will cost nearly $59, compared to a little more than $34 just a year ago.
A trip to Austin will cost on average $31 in gas, compared to more than $15 a year ago.
Despite these new costs, families that have planned for a celebration on a budget don’t need to cancel plans.
“You’re just getting less bang for your buck,” Heckman said.