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Fourth of July stories sparkle on any business beat

June 24, 2014

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Photo: ShutterbugMike on Flickr

Already 2014 is about half over and the Fourth of July holiday is speeding toward us like a runaway locomotive. It’s the make-it or break-it bellwether for many summer tourism businesses and is particularly interesting this year because the Fourth falls on a Friday, making for an automatic three-day weekend for many workers.

According to Orbitz, many people will be tacking on additional days off to the weekend and it’s up to be the busiest travel weekend of the year, with twice as much travel taking place despite airfare and hotel costs about 5 percent higher than last year.

Obviously, a snapshot of local tourism is a must-do for this holiday; in addition to resorts and theme parks, don’t forget about campgrounds, vacation home rentals, Airbnb bookings, RV and motor home rentals and other indicators of vacation activity. Until reporting for this blog post I didn’t know about Boatbound, a P2P rental marketplace kind of like Airbnb; this report says Washington, D.C. leads the nation in such bookings; why not contact Boatbound for information about your market?

Workplace stories can be interesting, again especially with the long-weekend factor this year. Check-in with area businesses about how competitive vacation requests are accommodated and balanced with staffing needs, for example.  Are workers feeling a bit more secure this year than in recent years, in demanding time off?

Also, keep in mind opportunities for service providers like house sitters and pet sitters. And even take a look behind the scenes at pageants and parades – are equipment rental companies or firms that provide sound engineering and other production support getting a boost this season? What’s it like to produce a parade, community show or other July 4th celebration?

Fireworks are sort of the de rigeur story of the Fourth. You can find a pertinent angle on most beats including health care, transportation and even casino or sports as those venues use more and more firepower to amp up enthusiasm.

Here’s a Huffington Post piece from last year about “The ridiculous amount Americans are spending on fireworks this year,” which pegs the number near $650 million. If you want to go beyond the roadside fireworks shack retail story, check out the website of the American Pyrotechnics Association, which offers industry facts and figures and might be able to direct you to local members. Where are most fireworks manufactured, for example?

It’s also apparently a popular hobby; this directory from The Fireworks Alliance lists a number of regional clubs that may offer you leads to people who create fireworks for fun and in turn to the chemical companies and other niche suppliers that might be ripe for profiles.

This list of distributors from the Pyrotechnics Guild International seems to reflect mostly importers; how does that work? What are the lead times for inventory, import and transport regulations, etc? Here are some US suppliers of firing systems and other gear – a technology story could be interesting if that’s your beat. If you cover transportation, what are the special needs for carrying a load of fireworks or other explosives by truck?  What is the FAA stance on fireworks?

Goodwill Store deals on 4th of July
A Goodwill store in New Jersey offered deals on 4th of July.

Other retail stories of course are the sales of the Stars and Stripes (one Realtor in my area gets up at the crack of dawn and sticks a small American flag on a stick into the lawns of hundreds of houses as a marketing gimmick). Party supplies, swim gear, patio furniture, grills – all the accouterment of the celebration of summer will get their last best chance in the coming week.

Keep your eyes and ears open for quirky angles. I saw personal misters that hook to the garden hose being featured as this year’s must-have in local big-box stores; what other indulgences are hot this year? And I spoke the other day with a woman who’s a seamstress for a regional outdoor awning manufacturer, for the past month she’s been leaving for work at 5 a.m. as the sewing machines whir to meet demand for residential and commercial awnings ahead of Fourth of July fests and summer season at sidewalk bistros. That would make for an interesting small biz story that reflects the uptick in the local economy.

Summer apparel, swimwear, and accessories seem to peak at this time, with clearance sales beginning shortly after and no doubt back-to-school clothing appearing on store mannequins by July 15. It’s a good time to take the pulse of summer revenue at malls and strip centers in your area that features traditional chain boutiques.

Food is a very interesting angle – when you think of it, do makers of hot dogs, chips and dip go into overdrive in June to meet demand? Do more cattle go for that big ride in the country in anticipation of holiday burger fests? The Produce News reports that Independence Day is bigger than the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo for California advocado growers; Americans are expected to snarf nearly 105 million pounds of the produce in salads, dips, and salsas. Who knew? Why not talk with local agriculture officials and growers about the holiday’s effect on their sales?


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