Tight helium sinks Canada balloon sales

July 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, July 21 (UPI) -- The balloon business in Nova Scotia is hurting these days due to tight helium supplies, Canadian retailers said, warning that prices could go up further.

The traditional decorations for birthdays and grand openings may look a little less festive as customers cut back on helium-filled balloon purchases in the face of prices that have already floated 15-percent higher at some stores.

"It is kind of a week to week thing," said Paul Rhyno of Partys R Us in Halifax. "Our [helium] supplier has very limited amounts left."

CBC News said shrinking helium supplies in the United States have squeezed supplies in Canada. In addition, helium used in hospitals to cool down MRI machines gets priority over the balloon industry.

"Obviously when there is no medical helium, there's no balloon helium so we just sort of get the leftovers," Rhyno shrugged.

Rhyno told CBC he has been pushing air-filled balloons but many customers instead have been sticking to helium but are buying smaller balloon bunches.

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