Local balloon shops impacted by helium shortage, rising costs

(Photo taken by: Laura Borchers/WBNS-10TV)
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WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Local families could feel the pinch of a global helium shortage. Consumer 10 found some local balloon and helium rental shops changing pricing and a few locations have stopped selling helium balloons altogether.

While the worldwide helium shortage stands to have more serious consequences to the medical apparatus, deep-sea diving equipment, airbags, cryogenics and other devices relying on helium to operate many families first see the shortfall in simple party decor. Helium balloons are beginning to cost more in some places.

"We have not changed our prices," said Stacy Roberts of Cooks Balloonery, "but our distributor just took on a 49-percent price increase. Unfortunately, the significant increase that they took, due to a lack of helium has a trickle-down effect to us." While some local stores have already increased the prices of helium balloons, store operators described an unclear future on the cost.

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"At this time we just take it day-by-day," said Roberts. "I do know probably in July there will be a ration due to the shutdown of one of the plants that they get helium from."

Graduation season often brings a huge demand for helium balloons, displays and helium bouquets to colleges, high schools, and countless backyard parties. However, some Ohio locations of The Dollar Tree Store posted signs indicating helium balloons are not currently being sold.

The demand for helium gas continues to grow for a variety of medical, exploratory and entertainment purposes, however, the supply is changing.

Some stores in Columbus offer helium tank rental for party planners willing to blow up their own balloons. Those prices are increasing also and industry experts say tank rental is not cost effective for events with fewer than 70 balloons.

"We watch the sources in the U.S. and the Middle East. There is enough for years and years but at some point, unless a researcher reveals a way to create helium in a lab, it is going to run out," said Roberts. "We do have a machine that mixes air with helium so we're trying to do our best to use the least amount of helium required for certain decor but we also do another set of decor that doesn't require helium at all and we let our customers know about those options. Luckily with us, you'll always be able to get a balloon because we don't use helium for everything we do."