Buying Mail Order Fireworks
Advice on buying online and having your fireworks delivered.
Although not quite as straightforward as buying general items online – there’s a reason you won’t find fireworks on Amazon which I’ll get into later – it is still possible to have fireworks delivered. In this article I’ll run through what’s involved and why it’s more challenging for retailers to supply consumers in this way.
Why fireworks are a pain to deliver
In a word: Explosives. Because fireworks – even many sparklers – are legally classed as explosives, you can’t just stick them in the post! In fact as a retailer you can only send them by a specialist explosives courier, or deliver them yourself.
By specalist explosives courier I mean one of a very small number of couriers willing to take fireworks. It’s not just that they’re explosives; drivers may require additional hazardous goods training (extra costs) and you can imagine that in the Guy Fawkes period a significant amount of fireworks could be in the courier’s network, vans or warehouses. So it is not a surprise that most mainstream couriers simply won’t touch fireworks with a barge pole.
So the extra costs involved and the lack of competition in the courier market mean it’s quite expensive to have fireworks delivered, costs which in nearly all cases the retailer has to absorb.
But it gets worse. Fireworks need to be shipped in properly marked cartons, well packed, with accompanying documentation relating to their explosives content. And consumer fireworks are also split into 1.4G and 1.3G classifications with the latter being even harder to ship.
To put the costs into perspective, I asked a few of my friends in the fireworks trade how much it actually costs to ship a fireworks order to a customer by courier. A minimum cost of £20-£30 was not uncommon with typical costs usually being £50 upwards for bigger orders and even £100 plus for larger deliveries to distant (Scottish) addresses. And this is one reason why you won’t find fireworks on Amazon and the likes.
So retailers who are brave enough to take on mail order often require a minimum order value to help offset the costs of shipping and will usually have to pass on some of the extra costs of shipping, particularly to remote areas.
The important point here is that when you start to look for a fireworks company that can deliver, please don’t get too annoyed at the requirement for a minimum spend, or additional costs for delivery. I can assure you that no fireworks retailer that I know of has ever made a profit on delivery charges. And every special offer, discount or BOGOF you add to your order adds to the weight (and costs more for the retailer to deliver). Even the sturdy boxes can cost around £5 each!
Post-Covid and in recessionary times, firework retailers are doing a lot of subsidising with regards to delivery costs. This means that you may be charged £15 delivery but it actually cost the retailer £50, with them paying the difference to make delivery to you possible.
The classification of fireworks as explosives is the reason why most couriers who are willing to deliver fireworks won’t do so beyond the UK mainland, as this could include a ferry or air trip.
Retailers' own deliveries
Given the costs and limited availability of firework couriers, many retailers will try and deliver themselves. However this in itself can pose many logistical challenges. Whilst a local delivery might be cost effective to do with your own van, delivering nationally is difficult and expensive. The seasonal nature of fireworks really doesn’t help either. A retailer might have one delivery a week in January but dozens a day in late October.
Two strategies employed by some retailers are:
Grouping deliveries. This is where a retailer has a delivery “run” to a certain area and groups customers together along the route or destination.
Doing local runs themselves. This is where a retailer does local deliveries on their own van to save costs, but puts orders for further afield on a fireworks courier.
Limitations of mail order fireworks
Given all of the above, it can be seen that ordering fireworks is not quite as easy as ordering a pizza. Or as cheap. So putting all of this together:
- Not all retailers can offer delivery simply due to costs and lack of available national couriers who will take explosives.
- Some retailers may offer local delivery only which they will do on their own vans.
- Sending fireworks by courier can incur significant costs to the retailer so please don’t quibble about a £20 or £30 charge or a minimum order value (or both) – the retailer isn’t profiting from these costs.
- Please try and order early. Retailers who also run a physical store are hugely busy over Bonfire Night and shipping out fireworks for the next day on or around November 5th is very difficult. Some even close down their mail order fireworks during this peak period.
- Most third party couriers who are willing to ship fireworks are not as sophisticated as we’re used to from DPD or Amazon – most can only narrow down delivery slots to a specific day, not AM or PM.
- Saturday delivery is often possible but at significant extra costs.
- Given the nature of fireworks, someone over the age of 18 must be at the delivery address to sign for the fireworks and they cannot be left unattended.
- Considering the above, many retailers ask for a work delivery address; this is simply to improve the chances of someone being in. Redeliveries cost a fortune!
- Orders for New Year’s Eve typically need to be shipped out by Christmas as many explosives couriers shut down over the festive period. This is often a shock to consumers used to 7 day a week deliveries from Amazon.
Finding a mail order fireworks stockist
Now I’ve got the bad news out of the way and prepped you for possible higher delivery costs than you were expecting – or no delivery at all if you live in the Shetland Islands – it’s time to find a retailer who can ship fireworks to you.
As with the other Buying Fireworks sections, I would at this point like to draw your attention to UKFR Sponsors.
You can find banners and links to UKFR Sponsors in the following places:
Further help and advice
If you’re new to fireworks or to UKFR then I recommend heading over to the Beginners Start Here! guide for a structured walk-through of the extensive articles and guides here.
Once you have purchased your fireworks then the next exciting steps are of course setting up your fireworks then firing them, both covered by separate sections here to help ensure your display goes without a hitch.