How to start a fireworks business
Are you wanting to start a fireworks business? Retail fireworks is fun, fast paced, and rewarding! But it can also be physically demanding and complicated. In the fireworks industry, we always say, “expect the unexpected and you will be ready!”
Whether this is a side gig or full-time business venture, we want all potential fireworks business owners to begin with basic firework knowledge and a good starting point. With varying state and city laws, regulatory concerns, and selling restrictions, selling fireworks can be complicated.
We strongly suggest 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 point you in the right direction.
We put together a list of the top things to consider and research before you open a fireworks business. Please note that this is not an all inclusive plan, but a high level overview to get started.
Can you open and sell consumer fireworks at the location, town, or city you have picked out?
If fireworks sales are allowed where you are looking, make sure and ask the following questions:
- What dates can you be open to sell?
- Are there any firework product restrictions? (Example: Is your area considered “Safe & Sane”)
- What types of structures you can sell from? (Example: tents, stands, trailers, permanent building structures.)
- What are the rules and 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 to examine:
- Is it easy to see from the street?
- Does the location have decent amount of car traffic both during the week and weekend?
- Does the location offer on-site 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?
- Does this location meet all the space requirements in the local and state ordinances? Is there enough setback space from the street & nearby buildings?
- Consider a lease agreement. Even if it is your first year, negotiate a multi-season lease so someone else cannot take your spot the following season.
Licenses & Tax Documents
Next, you will need to obtain the proper licenses, permits, and tax documents. Most states will require you to have:
- A Federal Tax ID Number
- A State Tax ID Number
- Retail 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, so you do not want to wait until the last minute to start!
If you are planning to sell out of a tent, call the tent company 4-6 months in advance to reserve. Event style tents will not work for your fireworks business. Tent companies will have specific firework, flame retardant tents that need to be used. 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. You will also want to ask what the policy is should the tent get blown down due to a storm.
As you hire staff for your location, do not forget to ask the most 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 will most likely be your busiest day.
Another important area that often gets overlooked is parking lot staff. Managing traffic flow is vital to having a successful fireworks location. If your parking lot gets backed up, people might drive past you for another location. Parking lot staff should be wearing bright colored parking vests, show customers where to park, and help control the flow of traffic at entry and exit points.
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.
Other key positions you will need to hire are listed below:
- People to help unload your fireworks order and get the tent stocked. We recommend two different crews, one to unload and bring the cases into the tent and another to be stocking the items as they come in.
- Stockers: Once you are stocked up and ready to open, you will need people to keep the tent or store stocked throughout the week, 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/Salesperson: Find someone who is passionate about fireworks that can help people by answering questions and give good recommendations.
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, take inventory, and pack things away for the next season.
Have a realistic list of expenses you expect to accrue. As with any new business, there will be some startup costs in order for you to open the doors.
- Fireworks: Your salesperson can help you determine how much to purchase based on your tent size
- 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 one month in advance.
- Supplies: Cash register tape/pens/markers/box knives/box tape/trash bags/binder with price list
- Cash register systems: These can be purchased and used for several seasons or rented from a company each year
- Lease payment
- Labor & security
- Tent rental
- License and permit fees
- Fire Extinguishers
- Banners/Signage/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 beforehand to get a plan in place for after the season. Does your supplier have a trailer you can rent and store any leftover fireworks? Does it make more sense to buy a trailer and store somewhere? Important note: you cannot store fireworks in your basement or in a shed on your property. They must be stored legally.
Also, do not forget about your cash registers, lights, tables and other supplies. Figure out where those will be stored after the season. 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 do not 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!
Check out our YouTube channel for more firework related videos!