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A Bang-Up Weekend for Retailers : Holiday Spirit Has Americans Spending Big

July 03, 1987|KEITH BRADSHER | Times Staff Writer

The rockets' red glare, as displayed over the Rose Bowl by fireworks show producer Pyro Spectaculars, is expected to generate about $250,000 in ticket revenues Saturday evening as Independence Day produces a broad-based sales surge.

From hot dogs and soft drinks to fireworks and ammunition, the holiday is expected to boost this week's sales by a third or more for some companies. "Fourth of July will certainly be the biggest week of the year so far," said Alfred A. Marasca, executive vice president for marketing at Ralphs, the Southern California supermarket chain.

Americans will have spent 64% more on groceries during the week preceding the holiday than during an average week, according to a consumer survey by SAMI/Burke, a Cincinnati market research firm. The survey predicted that grocery stores will have sold 55% more potato chips than usual and 81% more mustard.

Vons Grocery expects to have sold 7 million frankfurters this week, said Joseph F. Raymond, group vice president for sales and marketing. Americans will down about 26.8 million gallons of ice cream over the three-day weekend, an International Ice Cream Assn. spokeswoman said. That compares to the 7.6 million gallons consumed during a normal three-day period.

Holiday weekend soft drink consumption will equal more than a half gallon for every man, woman and child in the United States, according to the National Soft Drink Assn.

Pepsi-Cola sales in Southern California should be up 32% to 40%. P. Chris Hughes, a Los Angeles analyst for Pepsi, said: "We love the Fourth of July. . . . If it's hot, we sell like hot cakes."

The fireworks business is especially dependent on the Fourth of July. About 90% of the consumer fireworks industry's $150-million annual sales are linked to the holiday, said John A. Conkling, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Assn. Large, professionally produced fireworks displays rack up an additional $50 million a year in sales, and depend only a little less heavily on Independence Day, he said.

Renewed patriotism and extensive use of fireworks surrounding the celebration of the national Bicentennial in 1976 have boosted the demand for fireworks, Conkling said. "Fireworks sales in terms of pounds of fireworks discharged have doubled in the last 10 years."

The once-a-year popularity of fireworks displays makes them much more costly to produce on July 4, he said, with professionals charging 10% to 25% extra.

"The number of actual pyrotechnicians is limited, so the Fourth of July is an expensive day," said Michael D. Richards, director of operations for Zambelli International Fireworks. Zambelli, headquartered in New Castle, Pa., will produce more than 1,200 displays across the country Saturday, he said, including a $15,000 dawn show in Santa Monica.

Rising insurance premiums are the main problem now for professional fireworks show producers. Pyro Spectaculars' premiums eat up 15% of a typical show contract and buy only $1 million of liability coverage, said James R. Souza, vice president and executive producer of shows for the company, based in Rialto, Calif.

"Celebrate Disposables'

Two years ago, the firm's premiums cost 3% to 5% of a contract and bought $5 million worth of coverage, he said. But now, he added, "It's really strapped us down and it's taken all our profits."

Paper tableware is one of many other products selling well this Fourth of July. On Monday alone, a Party World store in West Los Angeles sold out a nearly full stock of red, white and blue napkins, plates and cups, store manager Toni F. Osife said. "Nobody wants to wash dishes. Celebrate disposables."

Sales of bunting and other party decorations in the national colors are up 30% this week over an average week, said Leslie A. Maciss, assistant vice president of Vine American Party Stores. The decorations sell well year round, she said, "because red, white and blue has four holidays a year"--Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Bastille Day--the French national holiday celebrated July 14--as well as election campaigns.

Not all Fourth of July sales are as safe and innocuous. "A lot of people tend to buy ammo for the Fourth of July . . . something that'll make a loud bang," said Albert Shemaria, retail manager of Weatherby, a rifle and shotgun manufacturer in Southgate.

Firearm Injuries

Falling bullets fired into the air by Fourth of July revelers have seriously injured and killed a number of people in recent years, said Cmdr. William D. Booth, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman. He said some of those killed have been children watching adults fire guns.

"They have no conception that the bullet that comes out of the barrel has to go somewhere," M. Theodore Manning, general manager of the Beverly Hills Gun Club, said.

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