Boosted by the ripple effects from $500-million in federal funding for Canada's 150th birthday, Canada's firework sector is anticipating booming sales this year.
Tom Jacobs, known in the business as Tommy Fireworks, says sales will be up 30 to 40 per cent this year at his Etobicoke, Ont.-based chain, Rocket Fireworks, which operates 15 consumer retail locations and produces commercial pyrotechnic shows. "Everyone is booked solid. If you wanted to add a show for Canada you couldn't find anyone. It's jammed."
On New Year Eve's many Canadians celebrated the beginning of Canada's 150th year with lavish fireworks displays on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and in other cities. On July 1, Parliament Hill will host a large fireworks show that will feature Canadian artists and French and English musical soundtracks. Similar parties are planned across the country.
"I've heard companies are already planning events around shows and some have been shooting commercials already for Canada Day," says Mr. Jacobs, who says he has been extremely busy dealing with the impact of the increased sales. "We're definitely hiring more staff to cope with many more professional displays and the busier retail locations."
Mark Phillips, owner of Mystical Distributing, one of the largest importer-distributors of fireworks in Canada, is also seeing sales soar: "If someone was spending $7,000 on a show [previously], they're spending $12,000 this year; $30,000, now $50,000. Every show is bigger this year."
With demand shooting skyward, the issue now is supply, says Mr. Phillips, whose company employs 55 to 100 people depending on the season at locations in Abbotsford, B.C., and Trenton, Ont.
"We pre-ordered a lot of products," says Mr. Phillips. "There have been factory closures in China by the government so there have been some issues with supply."
He says Mystical is also jumping on the Canada 150 bandwagon with a series of fireworks under the True North brand with familiar monikers such as Crazy Canuck, All Dressed and Double-Double.
Joe Rastin of Victory Fireworks in Markham, Ont., also credits federal Canada 150 funds with boosting his fireworks business, but he says there may be a downside.
The abundance of public shows may quench the desire for families to purchase products for use at their own backyard events. "I don't expect retail to be as strong," he says.
Fireworks are federally regulated though their use is municipally controlled, says Melanie Sutherland, a spokeswoman for the Canadian National Fireworks Association. There are no manufacturers in Canada and all fireworks are imported from China but there are strict regulations on what can be imported and how they must be stored, transported and sold.
While most Canadians are familiar with the pop-up kiosk style of firework retailer at the local level, there's also a large professional level market for certified pyrotechnicians.
All Canadian firework importers and distributors are privately held and there are no published figures on the dollar value of the market. Last year 3.9 million kilograms of fireworks were imported into Canada.