A helium shortage has been reported across much of the United States over recent weeks, impacting balloon services and prices and affecting sales over the holiday period.
The national helium shortage has seen retailers and balloon decorators forced to raise their prices dramatically, to almost double the original costs in some places.
The higher prices don’t see, to have put people off though, as some retailers have reported having to limit customers to three helium balloons per order to ensure they don’t sell out completely.
Some stores, such as the Florida branch of Party City, have had to put up signs explaining that they have run out completely.
“The shortage of helium supplies has impacted many industries,” read a statement from the party retail chain. “While Party City isn’t immune to these challenges, we are working aggressively with our supply partners and regularly receive helium replenishment to serve our customers in stores.”
In the US, federal government’s Bureau of Land Management looks after the nation’s helium programme. It used to provide 40% of America’s helium but following a change in federal law (which restricts sales when supply hits a certain point), is no longer selling helium to private companies.
Joseph Peterson, BLM’s assistant field manager, explained that companies have been finding alternate sources of helium, with many turning to suppliers in the Middle East. However, ‘global economic uncertainty’ is preventing helium from getting to the US as fast as it’s needed.
Joseph also explained that what the US is experiencing is not really a helium shortage, more of a ‘supply imbalance’. He said there has been a shortage before and that eventually the helium will return to normal supply levels.