New laws governing the sale of fireworks led to a number of retailers having second thoughts over whether to bother with the season. But with firework margins often close to 50%, the category can go a long way to giving winter profits a welcome boost.
Unless retailers apply for a special year-round licence, they are permitted to sell fireworks only at particular periods. These are October 15 until November 10, from December 26-31 for New Year, and on the three days before both Chinese New Year and Diwali. Store owners must also comply with updated legislation on storage.
But these laws should not be seen as a barrier. By letting customers know when fireworks will be on sale by displaying posters and dummy products, you can create a lot of interest. And safe storage can only be a good thing.
Retailers are showing a renewed faith in the category, says leading supplier Black Cat, which also produces the Standard fireworks brand. The company has already signed up 2,000 independents to sell its products come October.
"It's great to see so many retailers in the sector returning to fireworks," says independent channel manager Des Dawes. "In the run-up to the 2005 season there were a lot of changes in legislation and it's obvious some retailers thought fireworks were not for them."
He adds: "This year we have been working closely with retailers to help them understand that their responsibilities are not too overbearing. Our sales team has had a fantastic response. There's a real enthusiasm among many retailers for fireworks and we are still taking orders from both new and old customers."
Retailer David Patient, who owns Nearbuy's Convenience Store in Canvey Island, Essex, agrees that if retailers plan ahead, profits can soar. He concentrates his efforts on providing a good selection of fireworks for the main season in October and November, but also makes sure he has enough stock to satisfy demand for other celebrations throughout the year.
"We do pretty well from fireworks and it's an area we've concentrated a little more on each year. They are a very good line and the margins typically reach 50%," he says.
"It's probably true that the regulations have put off a few retailers in recent years, but they are not too difficult to keep on top of. The date restrictions do limit sales slightly but we put up plenty of signs and dummy products to show when the products will be on sale."
David operates a no ID no sale policy for anyone who looks under the age of 21 and says: "ID checks are not a problem because we simply follow the same system as we do with alcohol sales."
For more information, visit www.dti.gov.uk/firework

Do
Exclude sources of ignition
Stop people smoking anywhere near the fireworks
Keep fireworks away from space heaters
Avoid unnecessary handling of fireworks
Ensure that all fireworks are kept in a suitable display or storage cabinet
Ensure all escape routes and fire exits are clear and fire exit doors are unlocked

Don't
Don't decant fireworks into metal dustbins
Don't store fireworks near products that could easily catch fire
Don't store near pallets, cardboard boxes or paper
Don't store near parked vehicles
Don't store an excessive amount in the shop or in the stockroom
Don't store more than you are allowed under your licence or registration

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