The average number of balloons per party is on the rise – a shift surprisingly caused more by economics and the environment than social media.
As ecommerce proliferates, bulky products like helium balloons get less popular because they’re harder to deliver. This is affecting party stores: much like gasoline brings customers into convenience stores, balloons often bring consumers into party stores. One way party stores compensate for this is by selling more balloons and by using electric balloon inflators as a sort of Peloton for parties – an expensive base product on top of which consumables can be sold. When the base product is so expensive relative to the consumable, buying the consumable every so often becomes a no-brainer and even a justification. In fact, the piece of hardware sitting there also serves as an always-preset reminder to buy. So selling customers an electric balloon pump is a way to buy repeat orders, online and off.
These party companies are also pushing decor that encourages using a greater number of balloons, like balloon arch kits (searches up 113% year-over-year) and balloon garlands (searches up 120% since last year). Many reviewers say they bought supplies they wouldn’t have gone for if they hadn’t owned an electric balloon pump – sometimes using hundreds of balloons. As the number of balloons per party rises, some brands are even building balloon arch calculator apps which are popular both on DIY websites and at stores trying to sell customers even more balloons.
On top of declining brick and mortar traffic, the global helium shortage is a contributor to air-filled balloons. And for companies like Party City, the multi-billion-dollar party supplies company, balloon sales are a big deal. Of their top 5 initiatives for the year, “win at balloons” was number 2.
Helium-less balloons are also taking hold because of environmental reasons. Helium balloons raise more environmental concerns than they used to. The old attitude towards littering was more out-of-sight, out-of-mind, but now, a growing number of consumers feel that any product they buy and lose sight of is an environmental problem, so some of them are switching to air-filled balloons that can't transform into floating garbage if they're released outside. This is similar to the trend of buying metal straws rather than plastic ones: a product that’s hard to lose is a product that won’t lead to accidental waste.
Selling customers balloon pumps helps party supply companies hedge against the vagaries of helium supply and demand, environmental changes, and the rise of ecommerce: whatever happens, they'll more easily be able to sell customers plenty of balloons.