PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Could a national helium shortage for party balloons force the closure of some Party City stores?
That’s the speculation after the party supply company announced it was closing 45 stores nationwide, instead of the 10 to 15 stores it normally closes.
It’s not clear if any of those store closings will be Pittsburgh.
KDKA money editor Jon Delano called a number of stores in the area, all of which are still open, and the company said, “Party City has not disclosed a specific list of the store closings, but these will be in various locations across the country.”
“Everyone has a shortage to some extent, some suppliers worse than others,” Scott Mackay, at West Penn Laco in Millvale, said last fall.
Locally, as KDKA reported last November, helium-filled balloons have been hard to come by, although stores like Party City still sell small tanks of helium that can fill up a couple dozen balloons.
But the price of helium, in general, has nearly tripled in eight years.
Helium is captured while extracting natural gas and is used in MRI machines and to make computer drives and chips, in addition to filling balloons.
Party City sells many more party products than balloons and pushes back that the helium shortage is closing stores.
Said CEO Jim Harrison in a statement: “We have signed a letter of agreement for a new source of helium which … would provide for additional quantities of helium beginning this summer and continuing for the next 2.5 years. We believe this new source should substantially eliminate the shortfall we are experiencing at current allocation rates and improve our ability to return to a normal level of latex and metallic balloon sales.”
Some experts predict the helium shortage will ease in the 2020s.