LARCHMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There’s a limited supply of helium, most of which is stored deep inside the Earth.
Demand for the gas is up and suppliers are struggling to fill orders. CBS2’s Tony Aiello checked in on Friday with a local business in Westchester County to see how it’s coping.
For the mom who lifts your spirits, helium balloons are a popular way to say “Happy Mother’s Day.”
In the colorful confines of Balloon World in Larchmont, the price of helium is a rising concern.
“$120 a canister to $240. What we were paying last year is now double,” employee Robert Toneatti said.
On the Upper West Side, the owner of Balloon King said he was forced to raise prices 40 percent.
“At first, they are a little shocked saying when we came here last year it was this price, but then we explain to them what has been going on,” Gene Nifenecker said.
Suppliers say scientific and medical applications are sucking up more and more of the world’s limited helium supply, driving up the price. A few months ago at a college in California researchers had trouble getting the gas.
“We’re expected to try to cut back and put off our experiments for a little bit until there’s a better helium supply again,” UC-Davis Dr. Rena Zieve said.
The owner of Balloon World said he’s such a good customer, his supplier warns him and ships extra helium when supplies start to tighten.
“I’m hearing stories that some people can’t get helium,” Toneatti said.
His business remains strong, in part because the shortage is driving some stationery stores out of the balloon business.
The struggles of brick-and-mortar stores are also helping Balloon World. When the Party City in nearby New Rochelle stopped filling balloons just before shutting down, his business shot up.
The added volume has helped Balloon World avoid increasing prices, but if the price of helium continues to go higher he may have to inflate the price tag.
Party City said because of the helium shortage, sales of Mylar balloons fell 8 percent last quarter. It is working on a deal with a new supplier to increase access to helium.