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Choosing the Right Product

Choosing The Right Product: Know Your Customers, Know Your Product and Know Your State’s Laws

When it comes to choosing the right product for your shelves, we love quoting these wise words from Joe Dirt: “It’s not what you like–it’s the consumer.” The success of your fireworks stand has everything to do with what your customers want.

You can buy a whole truckload of your favorite fireworks to stock your location, but they will be a total bust if you’re the only one who likes them. How do you know what customers want? Great question.

Do Your Research On What Consumers Are Looking For

This tip takes a little finesse and planning. If you’re planning to open your stand for July 4, you’ll need to start your research during the previous July 4th or New Year’s selling season.

Head to a local fireworks store and look around at what they’re selling. Take notes on what’s presented at the front of the store. Check out what people are buying.

When you have a chance, talk to a salesman. Ask about what is selling well and what fireworks are the favorites year in and year out. They’ve taken the time to figure out what sells and it will be a huge help to you.

This kind of information will be invaluable as you plan out what you want to buy and what you think will be the hottest items in the upcoming season.

Understand The Customer’s Mentality

Fireworks customers have their favorite products and it’s important to have those products on the shelf. But don’t forget that your customers usually have the same tendencies whether they’re shopping at a grocery store or a fireworks stand.

What do those tendencies look like? Well, the average retail customer wants to see everything, even if they aren’t buying all of it. Think about it. How would you feel if you went to a local doughnut shop and found out the only doughnuts they sold were Boston cream?

Even if it’s your favorite doughnut, it would feel a little weird and you probably wouldn’t come back. Consumers want to see variety even if they aren’t going to buy everything in the store.

Offer a Variety of Price Points

Along with variety in product is variety in price. Shoppers like to see both premium products and affordable products. Our next post covers this topic with more depth, but for now we want to give you a general overview.

Find out what products your customers like, then build around those products with items that vary in type and price. It helps to create a list of each type of firework with high-, mid- and low-priced items. Here’s an example:

Artillery Shells

60-gram shells (largest consumer shell available)

High — AR15 30 shell

Mid — Excalibur 24 shell

Low — Firearm 12 shell

Mid-Grade Ball/Canister Shells

High — Super Magnums

Mid — Liberty Shells

Low — Blue Steel

Economy Shells

High — Motion Maker

Mid — Festival Balls

Low — Mini-Mags

Understand the Product

Your customers will notice if you know your product or not. If you can give them a quick breakdown of anything on your shelves, they’re more likely to trust you and they’re more likely to buy the products you recommend.

Do you know what differentiates your 60-gram artillery shells from your mid-grade canister shells? What do mines do? Which cakes pack the most punch?

However, knowing your product isn’t an easy undertaking. You have to know what’s out there, how they’re classified, what they do and what offers good value and performance.

We’ll get to some of these details in our next post, but for now we want to give you an overview of the main product categories:

Assortments

These are the box-of-chocolates approach to product. One assortment pack includes a variety of different fireworks at different price points. Some are simple little bags of product while others come in huge boxes.

Assortments are really all about price points. How much variety and value can you offer for $30, $60, $80, $100, $200, $500, even $1,000? They are usually more expensive than their contents would be if sold individually because of the additional labor and cost to package them, but they are very easy and convenient for customers.

Assortments sometimes focus on a theme: rockets and roman candles, fountains and novelties, small repeaters and artillery shells, large repeaters and artillery, and a few other varieties. On the other hand, some assortments try to offer a little bit of everything within their target price point.

Roman Candles

These are one of the most recognizable categories of fireworks. You’ll see a wide range of prices and effects in this group, and there’s a definite variation in quality. Manufacturers usually produce assorted sets, which means your customers can get some solid variety in one pack.

A good tip here is to display inexpensive, mini-variety packs in display bins to capture impulse buys in addition to your selection of standard roman candles (more on that in part two of our product post).

Repeaters

Repeaters are a type of firework that launches multiple, repeating shots into the air. They’re popular with fireworks enthusiasts because they provide great displays with a variety of colors and effects. You light one fuse and the repeater does the rest, firing off shot after shot of powerful breaks.

Repeaters come in two main classifications: 200-gram and 500-gram. The “gram” refers to how much pyrotechnic composition is included in one repeater. 500 grams is the max weight allowed for consumer fireworks. Technically, anything with more than 200 grams of composition falls into the 500-gram class and is subject to different manufacturing specifications.

Additionally, there’s a configuration of 500-gram repeaters known as “racks” or “finale racks” that feature several (usually 9) large tubes fastened to a heavy wooden base. These are essentially large, high-quality artillery shells that launch in sequence and have a 2- to 3-shot finale.

There’s a pretty big price and performance difference between 200-gram products and 500-gram products, with the whole lineup ranging from $7 to $100+. Most of your sales will happen with lower-priced cakes (another name for repeaters), but premium options will appeal to enthusiasts so it’s usually good to keep a couple on hand.

A lot of what you’ll offer depends on your customers’ preferences and budgets. Fortunately, this category provides plenty of options to fit your needs.

Rockets

Rockets are a classic part of the fireworks experience, offering a range of aerial effects propelled by a small rocket motor attached to a stick (always with the scooter stick, by the way). They start out small with bottle rockets and generic items like Clustering Bees or Butterfly Rockets. Then, they work their way up to big artillery-style rockets that rival quality ball shells.

There’s a certain type of customer that loves rockets. We sometimes call them our “rockets, roman candles and firecrackers” customers, because they love these inexpensive, high-fuse-count items. For others, rockets may not be make-or-break, but they are still a popular choice as an add-on to round out their purchases.

Either way, rockets are a low-cost way to add a large number of items people can light and enjoy all evening.

Reloadable Shells

Shells are always popular — you’ll have a lot of people asking about them. For high-end shells, you get a quality and power that is unrivaled by all but the most expensive repeaters and finale racks. Even at lower price points, you often get more power than comparably-priced repeaters. Plus, some customers are planning small shows and want more control over each shot.

Artillery shells will be a big draw, so you need to make sure you have a good selection of products in this area. Your shells will start out small, like mini-mags or festival balls, and work their way up to 60-gram canisters. This range of shells will provide a variety of price points that appeal to customers with varying levels of spending money.

It’s worth noting that not all shells and tubes are the same size, and it’s helpful to educate your customers so they are aware of this when using them. If they buy multiple kits, they should always launch each set of shells in the tubes that came with them. It’s not only safer, but it ensures the best performance of the product.

Also, we want to offer a quick word of warning about something we hear about all too often. As you get to larger kits, you’ll notice that they include more firing tubes. The law requires that an appropriate number of tubes are included from which customers can safely launch their shells. You should never piece out shells individually or break down larger kits into smaller selling units. This is against the law and potentially unsafe for your customers. Always sell artillery shells in the original packaging that includes the required number of tubes, directions for use and product safety warnings.

Firecrackers

The terms firecrackers and fireworks are almost synonymous in some circles, and these little guys are extremely popular during fireworks season. They are traditionally are sold in “bricks” containing 80 of the smaller 16-firecracker packs that you light. Beyond that, though, they range from single firecrackers all the way up to giant wheels of 16,000, with all sizes of strips and rolls in between.

Remember how we said variety is important? Firecrackers are a product that needs lots of variety. We recommend buying bricks and then breaking those down into strips of 16, 100 and more. (Unlike artillery shells, these can be pieced out. Just don’t detach individual firecrackers from their packs or strips.) If your shop is in an upscale area, feature a 16,000-firecracker wheel. It commands attention and acts as a centerpiece for your stand.

Fountains

Fountains are ground-based fireworks that produce a decent amount of color, light and sound. Just like repeaters, you light fountains and then step away as they reel off various effects for 30, 60, 90 seconds and longer.

This is a category that sometimes gets a bad reputation because of the overpriced, low-quality fountains commonly found in fireworks assortments at grocery and general merchandise stores around the Fourth of July and New Years. However, great fountains do exist! They don’t all have to be show-stoppers, but you can still carry a range of fountains that offers great value for the money.

Some states restrict fireworks sales to “safe and sane” products, meaning fountains are the stars of the show. If this is the case in your state, you’ll want to offer as much variety as you can find in this category. In addition to traditional cone and cylinder configurations, fountains can showcase fan-shaped effects, spinning, and even rocking. Look for creative options that are fun and unique to round out your core lineup.

No matter what, lot of families like fountains because they still have a “wow” factor but can be used easily on a driveway or street without the space requirements of larger fireworks. They’re also more neighborhood-friendly since they don’t have the big booms of cakes and shells.

Novelties

This last category of fireworks is probably the most family-friendly. Novelties include snappers, poppers, sparklers and other small products like smoke balls and ground blooms. Certain fireworks stands really push this category because the margins are higher here than other product categories.

They make a great product for impulse displays (more on that in part two) and register items. Some families will spend all their cash on these, while others will add them on to complete their purchase.

Even though novelties seem harmless compared to repeaters, shells and fountains, it’s important to remember that many of them still contain explosive compounds. Remind your customers to supervise their kids and that small children should never handle sparklers.

Know the Laws

Being a successful stand operator isn’t just about knowing your customers and your products; it’s about knowing local laws, too. Every state has specific laws about which fireworks are allowed and which ones aren’t allowed.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with those laws. Doing so protects you, protects your customers and ensures that you keep the local fire marshal happy. You want the law working with you, not against you.

Studying up on local laws might seem boring, but it’s worth the effort. You don’t want your selling season cut short because you sold illegal fireworks. Our favorite place to keep tabs on local regulations is the American Pyrotechnics Association’s state laws page.

Wrapping Up: Keep the Customer in Mind

To be a successful businessman, you have to understand what the customer wants. Once you figure this out through research, choose products across high, medium and low price points. A wide selection of product and pricing is more appealing to a consumer.

Once you know which product you’re going to sell, study up on each one. Know them inside and out. This will help you build rapport and trust with customers as you answer their questions and help them find the right fireworks for their needs.

And don’t forget to research your state’s laws regarding fireworks. In all the fun and frenzy of the holidays, we tend to forget that fireworks are explosives and, consequently, are regulated pretty heavily. Becoming an expert in fireworks regulations benefits you, your customers and, ultimately, your sales numbers.

Looking Ahead: Choosing Products, Part 2

Choosing the right product is a pretty big topic, so we’ve done two posts about it. In the next post in our series on running a fireworks stand, we’re going to dig deeper into how to build your catalog, how to set pricing and how to merchandise your product.

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