Global helium shortage slows balloon sales

The global helium shortage means people have been unable to buy helium balloons for the past month.

Tom Lee / Stuff

The global helium shortage means people have been unable to buy helium balloons for the past month.

A global helium shortage is deflating not only party plans, but also balloon sales across the country.

A spokesperson for party supply store Look Sharp, said there had been a shortage since July, mainly affecting its stores in Auckland, Central and Lower North Island.

“We have set a limit on customer pre-orders to ensure stable service.”

Helium is produced when uranium decays and there are few places that produce the gas.

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The United States is one of the largest producers, along with Qatar and Algeria.

But supply chain disruptions, production plant shutdowns and a leak in mid-January at the helium reserve in Texas have affected supply.

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The shortage had caused a noticeable drop in Look Sharp’s total Saturday sales and had also affected its balloon sales.

“We found that our customers would look for alternatives to helium balloons such as our balloon garland, column DIY kits, hand air pump and decorative helium-free balloons, which have evolved faster due to the current shortage.

“But in general, our store gets more orders for balloon assembly services that don’t require helium, like balloon centerpieces.”

Since the end of last week, its stores in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga have regained their helium supply, while other regions are expected to have supplies again in the next two weeks.

Spotlight also offers helium balloons and some stores had announced that they would not have helium until October.

A similar helium shortage occurred in the United States before the pandemic, which drove up the price of filling a balloon, essentially doubling the cost.

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