How a helium shortage helped kill an NJ business
Soft Halloween sales are only part of the reason for the announced closure of the Party City store in Randolph, NJ on Route 10. Year-over-year their October revenue was down 8%. But mixed in with the doling out of other stats about Halloween products and brick-and-mortar results versus e-commerce results there was this interesting nugget.
Contributing to the decrease in revenue thus leading to the store's closure is a helium shortage.
Yep, it's starting to happen. I remember reading about this. It turns out the earth is just about out of helium. Here's why.
First of all, believe it or not helium is the second-most plentiful element in the universe according to a CNBC article. Yet it's extremely tough to find because it escapes the atmosphere. (Helium balloons float, right? That helium, loose in the atmosphere not trapped inside a balloon, simply leaves us into space) Helium is taken from the Earth's surface by uranium rock decaying and releasing helium into natural gas chambers. The process takes place over millions of years. (Hmmm, how many years did little Tyler's one birthday balloon take?)
Helium, a byproduct of harvesting natural gas, is also harvested by companies and not only used for the only thing most of us think about, filling balloons and occasionally making our voices sound like Mickey Mouse, but also used for MRIs (as a coolant) and high speed internet and cable TV (in the manufacturing process). Other uses include the production process of semiconductor chips (Why are they so important? Think TVs, phones, computers, etc.), microscopes, airbags in cars, cleaning rocket fuel tanks, computer hard drives and more. With such a need for helium and such a shortage at hand it's amazing some politician in Trenton hasn't drafted legislation to ban children's birthday balloons.
The U.S. has been the biggest supplier of helium since 1925 when a massive reserve was discovered that spanned Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Just about depleted, it is closing down in two years and new reserves are being sought.
So yes, that means there's literally a helium shortage and no one knows for sure where or when they'll find more. It's all found rather by accident to begin with you see. Who would think a retail shop in Randolph could owe its demise in part to such science?
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