The fireworks business receives most of its revenue in the lead-up to the Fourth of July holiday. That revenue has surged recently. Between consumer purchases and what the industry calls “display fireworks,” sales across the industry will top $1.3 billion this year.
The American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) is the fireworks industry association. Among other things, it keeps industry statistics. The 2019 number is based on modest growth from the 2018 figures. For last year, consumer purchases reached $945 million. Display fireworks hit $360 million.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) defines display fireworks this way: “Display fireworks are the large fireworks used in fireworks display shows, generally under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician. These fireworks are designed primarily to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration, or detonation.” Their use requires a federal license. Consumer fireworks, on the other hand, can be sold without a license.
The growth of the industry over the past two decades is extraordinary. Total fireworks sales were $945 million in 2009. In 1999 they were $500 million.
Injury levels of fireworks have stayed about the same over the past two decades, numbering approximately 9,100 last year. That compared to 8,800 in 2009 and 8,500 in 1999. Regulations about fireworks use and safety precautions have clearly done very little to knock down these numbers.
The largest fireworks display in the United States is generally considered the one sponsored by Macy’s for Independence Day in New York City. The retailer sets off 3,000 individual “effects” in an extravaganza that lasts nearly half an hour and is estimated to be seen by 3 million people. Many are red, white and blue, in honor of the over two dozen different official flags flown over the United States for the last 242 years.