Helium is an essential chemical element used in MRI scanners, rocket fuel tanks, and floating party balloons. It’s also a finite natural resource, and a global shortage has made it harder to sell balloons at Party City, which is now closing 45 stores.
On Thursday, the party supply retail chain announced plans to shut down about five percent of its stores across the country this year, attributing some of its first quarter financial losses to “helium challenges.” In a statement, CEO James Harrison said the company usually closes 10 to 15 stores a year. And for a company whose success is strongly tied to the emblem of a traditional party—the humble balloon—being unable to provide ones that can float presents a serious problem.
In a post on its website, Party City offers some of creative hacks for decorating with helium-free balloons. “You can create a balloon arch or balloon wall with latex and foil balloons as seen below,” the company writes, “no need for helium; just some tape and creativity.”