Fireworks 101 – The Retail Fireworks Business.
FIreworks 101 – If you have never worked in a fireworks tent, stand or store? Please read this first. (Disclaimer)
We want to insure you will have the best possibility of being successful at your fireworks retail venture. Walking into the fireworks business without some basic experience will put you at a major disadvantage and might end up being the two worst weeks of your life. Besides all of the regulatory concerns, there are physical responsibilities that must be met. If you cannot give up two weeks of your life (or more depending on location) this will not end up being what you set out to do.
Winco Fireworks strongly suggests working for someone else on a consignment program your first year to learn the ropes. It is better not to risk your hard-earned money learning a business that might not be right for you. There are several national fireworks retailers who you can work for on a consignment. Please contact us directly and we can help you.
Local and State Ordinances
If you are interested in selling fireworks at the retail level, the first step is to check your local and state ordinances. This will let you know:
- If fireworks sales are allowed where you are looking
- What dates you can be open to sell
- What types of structures you can sell from (tents, stands, etc.)
- The rules/regulations for how close you can be to the street, another building, etc.
Once you have a good understanding of the ordinances, a location is the next step for your fireworks business. In looking for a location you want a spot that:
- Is easy to see from the street
- Has a decent amount of car traffic both during the week and weekend.
- Has ample customer parking – most of your business is going to come in the last 48 hours – does your location have enough parking for your high-volume days?
- Meets all the space requirements in the local and state ordinances. Is there enough setback space from the street & nearby buildings?
- Work out a lease agreement. Even if it is your first year, negotiate a multi-season lease so someone else can’t come and get your spot from you the following season.
Licenses & Tax Documents
The next step in opening your fireworks business is to obtain the proper licenses, permits and tax documents. Most states will require you to obtain:
- A Federal Tax ID Number
- A State Tax ID Number
- Sales Tax License from State
- Permit from State Fire Marshalls Office
- Permit from City/County
Many states and cities/counties have an application process and deadline. Make sure you start the application process well in advance of the deadline. Some documents may require time to obtain or put together, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to start!
If you are planning to sell out of a tent, you will need to call the tent company 4-6 months in advance to reserve. Fireworks tents must be flame retardant, so a tent company can’t just give you any tent they have in stock. Remember when determining the size of tent that will fit in your location to account for the space it will take to stake a tent. That can add anywhere from 5 to 10 feet of space in your location. Most municipalities will measure the distance from the tent stake, not tent wall to make sure it is a safe distance from buildings and streets. If you would like recommendations for a tent company, please speak to your salesperson. **When you get the quote for your tent, make sure the price includes installation and removal. Also ask what the policy is should the tent get blown down due to a storm**
As you hire staff for your location – don’t forget to ask one very important question: “Are you available to work on the 4th of July?” Many people think that since it is a national holiday – fireworks stores/tents are closed on the 4th of July. Make sure they understand that they are required to work on the 4th as it most likely will be your busiest day. You will need a variety of people to help you during the week:
- People to help unload your fireworks order and get the tent stocked – (we have found that it works best to have 2 different crews, one to unload and bring the cases into the tent and another to be stocking the items as they come in).
- Stockers throughout the week – once you are stocked up and ready to open, you will need people to keep the tent stocked throughout the week and especially July 3rd & 4th.
- Cashiers – Make sure you have enough to cover all shifts – most people won’t want to work open to close!
- Greeter/Sales person – Find someone who is passionate about fireworks that can help people answer questions and give good recommendations.
- Parking Lot – This area often gets overlooked, but is vital to having a successful location. If your parking lot gets backed up, people might drive right past you for another location. Have a few people with parking vests on to help control the flow of traffic.
- Even though everyone will be tired after the 4th of July, make sure to have people available to work on July 5th to help clean up and pack things away for the next season.
- If you have a tent, you will need to find someone who can stay overnight to “watch” the location. You can always hire a security company to do this as well.
Have a realistic list of expenses you expect to accrue. As with any new business there will be some startup costs, so you can open the doors.
- Cash register systems (these can be purchased and used for several seasons, or rented from a company each year).
- Credit card terminals (if not included in your register system). Many of our locations use portable credit card machines. You will have to get a Merchant ID set up, so you are able to take credit cards. Our sales staff can help point you in the right direction on this, but it can’t be done at the last minute. Plan this out at least 1 month in advance.
- Lease payment
- Labor & Security
- License and permit fees, insurance
- Fireworks (your salesperson can help you determine how much to purchase based on your tent size)
- Cash register tape/pens/markers/box knives/box tape/trash bags/binder with price list
- Fire Extinguishers
- Banners/Flags/Promotional Items
- Port-A-Potty (some cities require this)
- Lights (inside & outside of location)
- Power Pole/Generator
The season is over and you have some fireworks left over…now what? Talk with your supplier before hand to get a plan in place for after the season. Does your supplier have a trailer you can rent from them and store any leftover fireworks? Does it make more sense to buy a trailer, and store somewhere? Remember, you can’t just store fireworks in your basement, or in a shed on your property. They must be stored legally. Also, don’t forget about your cash registers, lights, tables and other supplies – where will those be stored? If you keep everything in a trailer that you are going to want delivered back to your location the following season, make sure you buy/rent a trailer that is considered “road worthy.” If you plan to keep a storage trailer at your location while you are open for business, make sure to account for that in all of your measurements with the fire marshal. You don’t want them to come by and tell you that you have to close down because your storage trailer is too close to a building or your tent!