What the Helium Shortage Means for Your Upcoming Party

Maybe it’s time to reconsider that balloon canopy.
Andrea Fowler

Andrea Fowler


In case you haven’t heard—and we’re guessing you haven’t, because no one has a Google alert set for balloon news—there’s a helium shortage that’s doing some far-reaching damage. This isn’t just a temporary out-of-stock issue at your local party supplies store, it’s a global deficit.

In a recent Party City earnings report, the negative impact was clear: The helium shortage significantly reduced the revenue of balloon sales. In the same earnings report, which cites an average of 10-15 store closures each year due to a “network optimization process,” Party City CEO James Harrison announced there will be approximately 45 store closures in 2019.

Here’s the issue: The cost of buying helium is surging due to its limited quantity and high demand, so retailers like Party City aren’t able to purchase its usual stock. This means less balloons can be inflated. And obviously, no one wants to buy sad, flat “Happy Birthday” balloons.

Party City expects to have a new helium source contracted by the start of the summer, but there are a lot of milestones to celebrate between now and then. Graduation parties, baby showers, birthdays, weddings...the list goes on.

There are plenty of ways to decorate with balloons that don’t require helium, like balloon garlands for example, but you can also wow party guests with no balloons at all.

Take your décor budget and put it toward a venue with an incredible view—people will be too busy admiring the scenery to notice the lack of streamers. Or book a theme-centric entertainer that helps to create a specific ambience in lieu of décor, like a ‘90s cover band for a throwback-themed graduation party. Not only is hiring local talent more sustainable (aka no helium necessary), but you’ll be supporting small business owners too.

While the helium shortage persists, it’s not just the party industry that’s taking a hit. Helium is also used in the medical industry, and in deep sea diving and space flight, just to name a few of its very important uses. Some researchers have even suggested a ban on helium use for party balloons.

Now, we don’t want to rain on your party planning parade, but this is a good time to remind ourselves of the real purpose of throwing a party: To spend time with your nearest and dearest IRL.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that even though balloon canopies are awesome, they're not as awesome as celebrating a special occasion with loved ones.