Fireworks retailer stays busy as the smoke clears

Many work to keep the
fireworks business booming year round.



YOUNGSTOWN — What does a fireworks business do July 5, and after?

Turns out, the off season is busier than expected.

Bruce Zoldan, chief executive of Phantom Fireworks, said the company very rarely sees returns from defective or unwanted products. Instead, a majority of customers who come back are there to buy more fireworks they just shot off and loved.

“We’re going to get a lot of customers on the 5th, 6th and 7th this year buying the items they really liked — to use later this week,” Zoldan said. “With the 4th falling on Wednesday this year, it confuses people on what day to celebrate. [Business] this year is bigger than usual after the 4th.”

Zoldan said some of the products that the company ships to chain stores, such as Giant Eagle, Kmart and Sheetz, usually sit on the shelves for about two weeks after the Fourth before they are shipped back to Phantom. The products are then repackaged and saved for next season.

One of the primary tasks completed in the days after the 4th is a lot of cleaning, Zoldan said. Other tasks pertain to the financial end of the business, such as paying back lines of credit, adding up sales and finalizing expense reports.

“Over the next few days, we do a lot of evaluating of the 2007 4th of July season,” Zoldan said.

Still open for business

While some of the Phantom stores across the country close after Labor Day, Zoldan said, about 65 percent of them remain open all year. The better months of business are July, August, September and December.

Sales may not by rolling on all cylinders all year, but that doesn’t mean the other employees of the company aren’t kept busy.

Zoldan said Phantom is the only manufacturer of sparklers in the United States and does a lot of pre-selling soon after the busy season is over.

“We’re also currently expanding across the nation,” Zoldan said. “We’re opening six new stores in the next year.”

Sparkler manufacturers, construction workers and architects work all year to keep expanding as much as possible, but there are even more people who work to keep the fireworks business booming.

“We’re doing a lot of lobbying,” Zoldan said. “There are some states that don’t even allow sparklers, so we’re constantly lobbying and trying to get the laws in states changed.”

Phantom also has numerous employees working in China. According to Zoldan, many of the deals for the 2008 fireworks season are finalized about 10 months beforehand.

From then until right before the busy season next year starts, Phantom employees in China are testing and correcting the new products to make sure they’ll be shelf-ready. Zoldan said that each year about 20-30 new products are selected to bring back to the U.S.

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