How Consumer Data Clarifies the Truth About Nightly Fireworks
Since the beginning of June, I’ve heard fireworks almost every night from my apartment in Boston.
At first, I didn’t think much about it—someone was clearly hyped about the Fourth of July and was celebrating early.
It wasn’t until I realized that other Massachusetts residents, miles from where I live, were hearing the same nightly fireworks that I understood this was a common occurrence.
Then, I noticed it wasn’t just Boston or Massachusetts. People in New York City were also hearing (and complaining about) fireworks more regularly than in previous years:
The wheels started turning—why are so many people hearing fireworks so often? And why are they going off so far in advance of the Fourth of July? I was ready to put those investigative reporting skills I learned in that one college journalism course I took to use.
I turned to the most logical resources for answers (Twitter and Reddit, of course) and ended up down a deeper rabbit hole—apparently, these nightly fireworks were a common pattern across the country.
Settling in with some frozen grapes, a good book and the sound of industrial grade fireworks kabooming deep into the night and all the dogs going crazy across the neighborhood. Aw, a lovely summer evening.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 23, 2020
the fireworks are starting early tonight.
— emily singer (@emily_singer) June 22, 2020
Ok so is everyone everywhere is having a firework problem now?
— Soso ☀️ (@soleilolay) June 22, 2020
Now the question was (as the internet convinced me and as you might have been wondering as well), is everyone just really into fireworks this year, or is there something more going on?
Why firework activity may differ from years past
At this point, it was 1:00 AM on a Sunday night and I had a few complex theories that I thought could answer these pressing questions concerning the abundance of fireworks that were circling the internet.
I actually thought I had it all figured out—until I looked at Klaviyo’s most recent consumer insights.
The first significant data point I found was that fireworks are at the top of people’s Fourth of July shopping lists…by a lot—as in, outpacing food by ten percent.
Not to mention, 19 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 plan to buy fireworks, sparklers, or firecrackers for Fourth of July celebrations.
Here’s one last piece of data for your consideration: 40 percent of respondents said they’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July at home this year.
This also doesn’t even begin to cover other data we’ve found in the last few months such as the fact that most parents won’t be sending their children to summer camps and are buying products to keep them occupied, or the fact that thirty-eight percent of people who have changed their Fourth of July plans say they plan to buy something new for their celebrations this year that they haven’t bought in years past.
The data is telling us loud and clear that these fireworks aren’t so much of a mystery after all.
Putting the uptick of fireworks into context
This year looks a lot different than last year and, as a result, consumer spending over the last few months has also looked a lot different compared to previous years.
For starters, seasonality patterns compared to years past are significantly different—brands in certain ecommerce categories are seeing huge sales spikes, while others are fighting to make ends meet. Many of these trends are abnormal if you look at the same categories compared to 2019.
Now consider some further context: this year, large public gatherings are canceled across the board. This means if you’re looking for a fireworks display for the Fourth of July in your area, chances are it’s already been called off. Additionally, sporting events, concerts, festivals, and other activities have been canceled for months.
Meanwhile, private get-togethers are still limited to small groups. Most state guidelines are recommending gatherings to stay to fewer than ten people, which means more households are throwing individual celebrations instead of fewer, larger parties.
As far as celebrations are concerned, July Fourth may be less than two weeks away still, but despite everything 2020 has thrown at us, there’s still a lot to celebrate such as birthdays, where people need to make do with backyard celebrations; Juneteenth, which more people and businesses are recognizing as a holiday; and Pride month (especially with the most recent Supreme Court ruling).
At the end of the day, we’re seeing a few things: people are continuing to stay home, people are canceling holiday plans, and people are straight-up buying fireworks, according to consumer surveys.
Not to mention, people are likely getting fireworks at a significant discount considering professional fireworks display companies are missing out on a big chunk of revenue they typically get from Fourth of July shows, which brought in $375 million in 2019—and those same companies are beginning to sell fireworks online.
The best explanation for all the fireworks? People are bored. They’re looking for entertainment. They’re looking for ways to amuse their kids. Most places are still closed due to the coronavirus and, even in states that are reopening, people aren’t fully ready to go back to their normal lives for safety’s sake. At the same time, people are finding fireworks for cheap.
Fireworks activity looks a lot different this year because everything looks different. Never have we been so into roller blades, do-it-yourself tie-dye, or making bread from scratch, either.
Consumers are looking for ways to spend their free time and enjoy the summer. Some are gardening, some are doing arts and crafts, some are working on home improvement projects, and some, apparently, are setting off fireworks—it just so happens the fireworks are a lot louder than all those other things, so, therefore, setting off more fireworks is much more noticeable than baking copious amounts of bread.
“But wait,” you might ask, “aren’t fireworks are technically illegal in some areas?” Yes, but many states are now relaxing their fireworks laws (which may also contribute to the uptick in firework activity). Selling alcohol to-go was also illegal a few months ago, but now it’s more normal.
The moral of the story? Things change during a pandemic.
The truth always lies in data
Maybe there’s more to the fireworks story than just changing consumer behavior and spending habits, but as the saying goes, oftentimes the simplest answer is also the correct answer.
Is there a more interesting theory than the one I propose? If you go deep enough into the internet you could probably find about 20. But there’s rarely an argument more convincing than cold, hard data.
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