YOUNGSTOWN – In March 2020, Phantom Fireworks was not sure if it would have a Fourth of July sales season because public gatherings were being banned.
The pandemic forced the Youngstown company to close its retail showrooms, with no timeline as to when they could reopen. The company also closed its corporate headquarters to all but a few workers.
With future sales in question, Phantom had to quickly adapt and make critical decisions.
First, it developed an online ordering system with curbside pickup. The IT department created and implemented the system in just six weeks, helping to get some fireworks products to customers.
Showrooms eventually were able to reopen on a state-by-state basis. But with few exceptions, they were limited to 50% occupancy through July 4.
Sales, however, were exceptionally strong. With just about every large fireworks show and festival canceled, and families putting off vacations, there was an unprecedented demand for consumer-grade fireworks.
“With backyard fireworks shows being one of the few options available to people to celebrate Independence Day, Phantom experienced a tremendous increase in new customers,” says Phillip Silverman, co-director of showroom operations.
But obtaining product from China wasn’t easy. “2020 was one of the most demanding years Phantom faced with shipping issues, the cost of goods increasing, and getting the goods from China in time for July 4th,” says Jessi Dragoiu, purchase and product development manager.
U.S. ports were overwhelmed and the dollar continued to weaken against the Chinese yuan, which meant the cost of goods increased.
“Just another day in the fireworks business,” says Alan Zoldan, executive vice president, reflecting on the unique issues Phantom faced in 2020. “Despite the challenging issues we faced, our team came together and delivered a successful year. We like to think that we made 2020 a little brighter for Americans.”
Phantom Fireworks operates 80 showrooms in 15 states and 1,200 temporary sales locations in 18 states.