The Store Room: What adjustments have you made for the helium situation?
Our monthly column is devoted to what works and what doesn’t — for our readers, from our readers
“What adjustments have you made to accommodate the current helium situation?”
We are displaying more air-filled designs, and of course, people buy what they see. We have stopped giving a free balloon to children who come in to the store and instead offer a “free” box of trinkets — kids and parents both love this. We also fill latex balloons a tad bit less if we know they are being used for a release or won’t be needed for décor. It is hard to track how much helium we actually are saving because our balloon sales are higher than ever before and we are using a lot more helium.
This is the worst possible time to for our business to have issues with helium. Graduation is most definitely our busiest time of year and we send out thousands of helium balloons in May and June. On top of that, we have seen a dramatic increase in our everyday balloon sales in the last couple months. Fortunately we are still able to get helium, but our cost has doubled and we have no guarantee that our helium supply will continue to be available to us. We have increased the price of our helium balloons to cover this added expense, and it hasn’t affected our sales at all.
In an effort to conserve our helium, we are pushing more air-filled designs and have stopped inflating helium balloons that customers bring into our store. We have always used air whenever possible — including a helium/air mix in larger balloons when we don’t need the full lift that 100 percent helium would provide. We have also stopped using helium balloons in our store displays, but instead have started inflating the foil balloons needed for the following weekend on Monday. They can be refreshed before they leave the store and this allows us to keep balloons floating in the store without depleting our helium.
Innovative Party Planners
Owings Mills, Md.
First, we have a responsibility to educate our clients and make them aware of the situation. We have sent out a note to our existing customers to explain the economics of the helium shortage, citing articles that explain why we are forced to raise our helium balloon prices. In addition, we have created alternative balloon décor options for our clients, while still trying to remain affordable. These options include balloons on a stick or placed in a frame, balloons suspending from the ceiling or balloon drops.
While these alternatives are more labor intensive, there is no helium involved. Either way clients will need to be made aware of the situation and understand why prices have to go up.
Heavenly Choice Flowers and Events
I immediately created new air-inflated designs and trained staff to promote these new specials, plus free local delivery. With such a great deal, hopefully our customers won’t price compare or notice our huge price increase on helium filled latex. Our bids on future orders will have a helium surcharge based on the retail cost of helium at time of order and the actual helium retail price on day of delivery. We were the only store that had helium on Valentine’s Day because I invested in a few extra 291s and stockpiled in January. It paid off in additional sales and new customers.
Heavenly Creations Events
We have been trying to make sure we have a large offering of air-filled décor. We use the selling point that it is long lasting décor. But when we do need to use helium, we try to keep it to a minimum. We have also switched to the 60/40 inflator from Conwin for any décor using 16-inch latex or larger and have also stopped renting helium tanks, as we are limited to the number of tanks we can get in a week.
I have had to raise my prices and am now pushing air-filled centerpieces and columns. I am also not giving away free balloons anymore. I think we should let the government know how much it is hurting the small business, as the government is the No. 1 user of helium. I think they could switch to another source of natural gas.
How many kids will not have balloons on their birthday?
Dawn Girtman, CBA
Balloons by Florally Yours
I’m offering more air-filled décor. In place of helium bouquets, we do short balloon columns with three clusters of balloons and a topper on PVC and a small baseplate. We add long strands of ribbon from the bottom cluster to help draw the eye down the column.
We are also re-educating our “hotel” staff members on mag movers and show them how we can hang décor from them and how it won’t ruin their ceilings. Uplights are also a great way for us to splash color for any event and use them instead of bouquets. I am looking forward to upcoming conventions so I can learn from others as well!
So far in my area the cost has gone up, but I am still getting what I need. I have been warned that medical comes first, so my plans are to use more air-filled on frames.
Fun Times Party Warehouse
A number of our competitors have been cut off or pretty close to it. Our supplier has chosen to not cuff off their customers. Instead they have put us on an allotment, and our allotment is pretty close to what we use/need anyway.
However, due to shortages elsewhere, we are getting a lot of new business. We have had to limit our tank rentals and watch supplies very closely. On top of that, we are showing customers options of using balloon sticks as another way to keep balloons up in a table centerpiece.