Local balloon businesses are struggling with inflation, or, actually, the lack of it.
Helium is in short supply, and its prices are going up, up, up.
"It's been crazy. We knew it was coming a year ago," said Amy Cullen, one of the owners of It's My Party in Dyer. She said the price to her has gone from $80 a tank to $135 a tank recently for a 59 percent sky-high rise.
Her helium provider, Cullen said, is able to get only 20 tanks a week for all his customers.
"He kept us on. ... We used to go through six a week. Now, we're at two. ... We've been super fortunate," she said.
For Renae Helton, owner of You Shouldn't Have in Lowell, helium's low supply is deflating.
"One word can sum it up. 'Ouch!'," she said.
Helton said balloon sales were 40 percent of her total sales in June, 37 percent in July and 40 percent again in August. "I'm on my last tank of helium and cannot find any more ... I've had to stop filling any balloons over 18 inches, your typical mylar balloon," she said.
Helton said her business has struggled in the economy, and the helium shortage adds another obstacle to overcome to remain open.
"Sales for the past, few years have consistently gone down, and losing 40 percent more could actually put me out of business," she said.
Cullen said the bright side of the balloon bust is she and others like her are becoming even more creative.
"I learned a lot of air-filled (balloon) designs with lots of personality," she said of a recent industry convention she attended.
"Our customers are amazing. We tell them, 'For a little less, we have these options,'" Cullen said of air-filled balloon creations for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. "It has really educated our customers, too."
Likewise, Helton said she has enjoyed expanding her artistic repertoire with air-filled balloon pieces.
"They don't float, but they are pretty as centerpiece decorations," she said.