Party City closing 45 stores amid global helium shortage

NEW YORK — Helium is the second-most abundant element in the galaxy, yet Party City is struggling to find enough of the gas to fill balloons.

Party City announced Thursday the company will be closing 45 stores.

The store closings come as a global helium shortage impacted latex and metallic balloon categories, according to Party City’s CEO James M. Harrison.

Balloons are big business for Party City. The company’s mylar balloon sales fell 8% last quarter, dragging overall sales down 1.4% at Party City stores open at least a year. Sales would have risen if not for the Party City’s balloon problems, the company said Thursday.

“Overall, our first quarter results were largely in line with our expectations on the top and bottom lines, inclusive of the helium shortage, which negatively impacted our latex and metallic balloon categories. 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 designed to improve value perception, and increasing product competency in the area of paper straws as part of our focus on environmental sustainability,” he said in a release.

Party City has about 870 locations, with over 40 stores across New York City and New Jersey.

According to Harrison, about 10 to 15 Party City locations typically close “as part of our network optimization process and in response to ongoing consumer, market and economic changes that naturally arise in the business.”

The company is expected to secure a new helium source for its stores this summer with a contract expected to last several years.

The closures will take place throughout the year.

The list of stores closing was not immediately made available.

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