Editor's Note: This article is the sixth installment in our "Winning the Card Game" series. Dana Norman and Michele Rothberg acquired discount greeting card store Card$mart in June 2011. They agreed to let TheStreet follow them for one year as they experience the ups and downs of running a business. Based on advice from their accountant, the owners have declined to share revenue and profit numbers.
PLAINVIEW, N.Y. (
) -- This spring, party suppliers and other industries that use helium -- from the components of MRI machines to flat-screen televisions and welding -- started to experience a helium shortage.
Helium shortages aren't unheard of, and the latest was caused by a combination of factors, from the warm winter weather to the European economic crisis and a previous Republican-led Congress that required the U.S. government to sell off its vast amount of stock-piled helium at below market prices by the end of 2014, according to media reports. Whatever the reason for the run on helium, demand is high and supply has dropped quickly.
Many party-supply stores have had to ration balloon sales, but for Card$mart, the helium shortage provided an additional profit boost in June. While Card$mart does sell balloons and its helium supplier also has placed restrictions, the independent shop doesn't do the volume that a store like
would do and was able to accommodate customers from competitors that were limiting balloon orders.
"We have had customers coming from Party City where [they are] limiting how many balloons [customers can purchase] and are not taking orders too far ahead of time," Norman says.
>>>Winning the Card Game: Month 1
>>>Winning the Card Game: Month 2
>>>Behind the Scenes at a Small Biz: March Means Mega Money
>>>Behind the Scenes at a Small Biz: In April, the Postman Rings
>>>Behind the Scenes at a Small Biz: In May, A Record Sales Day
The month of June wraps in not only Father's Day merchandise and cards but graduation needs, the tail-end of communions and confirmations and, towards the end of the month, sales of cards and paraphernalia for kids who were leaving for sleep away camp (a common occurrence in the upscale neighborhood that Card$mart resides in).
"We are the camp card castle. People are coming in and they're saying, 'I was told to come here for camp cards.' That's a niche product for this area," Norman says.