Party City To Shutter 45 Stores Due To Helium Shortage

Party City ran out of helium to fill its balloons

The New Jersey-based party supply company announced Thursday it will close around 45 stores nationwide this year as it grapples with dwindling supplies of the critical gas.

Harrison, CEO of Party City, said the chain typically closes 10-16 stores a year.

Party City believes the new source should substantially eliminate the shortfall they are experiencing at current allocation rates and improve its ability to return to a normal level of latex and metallic balloon sales.

"This year, after careful consideration and evaluation of our store fleet, we've made the decision to close more stores than usual in order to help optimize our market level performance, focus on the most profitable locations and improve the overall health of our store portfolio", Harrison said.

Could a national helium shortage for party balloons force the closure of some Party City stores? The natural gas in Utah, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming is richer in helium than in other states, which is why there are extraction plants in those areas, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

Seventy-five percent of the world's helium comes from sites in Qatar, Wyoming and Texas, but US reserves are running low, and may not be replenished.

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It could get more hard to throw a party.

But that supply is dwindling after the U.S. passed a law in 1996 obliging it to sell off a certain volume of helium every year at a fixed price, in order to raise funds for the Government. "Currently, helium supply is very low while demand is growing", the warning said.

With the recent helium shortage, a slew of industries-from party suppliers to medical and aerospace technologies-were all affected.

"Despite these helium challenges in the first quarter, we made progress on many fronts operationally and our global team continued to execute against our key strategic priorities including: developing plans to test new store concepts, implementing pricing initiatives created to improve value perception, and increasing product competency in the area of paper straws as part of our focus on environmental sustainability", Harrison said.

Party City ended the quarter with $1,991 million in debt.

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