Maine fireworks sales show signs of fizzling

WINDHAM — Fireworks sales are down in Maine as retailers say exploding gadgets have lost some of their sparkle with the buying public since becoming legal in the state in 2012.

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Sales tax from fireworks generated $278,083 from June 2013 to May of this year - a loss of more than $100,000 from the prior 12-month period, state officials said. That works out to about $5.5 million in sales for this 12-month period, a drop of about 28 percent from the previous year, officials said.

The sales tax revenues remain higher than the state's original estimate that fireworks stores would bring in about $120,000 per year. At Pyro City in Windham - which sells exploding products with names like N-Tense, Loud And Nasty, and Mother Load, some of which are marked with the words "warning - shoots flaming balls" - employee Brian Marson said sales are still strong.

And at Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough, assistant manager Roberta Doane said sales remain brisk, but the initial rush to buy fireworks since legalization has subsided.

"It was a novelty, everybody wanted it," Doane said. "It slowed down a bit - I think some people backed off a little."

Fireworks became legal in Maine on Jan. 1, 2012 after the repeal of a six-decade old law, with supporters saying the change would create jobs. The pace of fireworks business openings has also slowed. A dozen had opened by July 4, 2012, and there were 18 a year ago. The number crept up to 22 in the past year, the state fire marshal's office said.

The fireworks aren't a hit with everybody. About 60 Maine cities and towns have ordinances restricting or banning the use of fireworks, the fire marshal's office said. Safety groups such as Safe Kids Maine have made fireworks safety a focus of their campaigns.

"The safest way is for children not to touch them at all," said Suzanne Grace, the group's coordinator.

People must be 21 years old to purchase and use fireworks in Maine.

Outside Pyro City, Greg Wagner said the ability to buy fireworks in Maine remains appealing for tourists and people whose home states don't allow fireworks sales. He planned to buy some fireworks and bring them back to his Huntington, New York home for the holiday weekend.

"They're legal here, so we're going to buy them and enjoy them in New York," Wagner said.

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