David Jordan from Jordans Fireworks explains the processes involved in designing and importing a new consumer firework to the UK.
How does a firework start its life and what is involved in getting it to the UK?
In reality these days most fireworks for sale in the UK will probably have taken one of the following paths:
Firework manufacturers in China will show new products to their UK customers they have designed that can be labelled and named to the customer’s requirements. Or a product that is currently in production that has been named and labelled for the US market can be over labelled for the UK market. Or finally a UK company will have given a manufacturer a criteria that they would like a firework manufacturing to.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
Chinese manufacturers have a huge range of fireworks that are suitable for the UK market. These are seen at test firing sessions as plain cardboard tubes and once chosen by a UK importer they can, if required, be modified to a customer’s particular requirements. Of course you may find that several UK importers have seen and chosen the same firework but each of them will have given it a different name and a different label.
China’s largest market for fireworks is the United States and manufacturers produce large ranges of fireworks with that market in mind. Some of these fireworks are also suitable for sale in the UK. A UK importer choosing suitable fireworks from these ranges would not have to incur the cost of designing a label as these products will already be produced with colourful wrappers and to comply with British Standards labelling requirements will only need the warnings and instructions label fixing to the firework. Some label designs intended for the US market would not appeal to UK buyers but there are many that are popular.
Finally a UK importer can give a specification to a manufacturer of the style and effects they would like a firework to have. This can be purely based on price i.e. can you make a 25 shot cake for £X amount? Alternatively a product may be shown to a manufacturer who would be asked to produce something similar, better, cheaper etc, or a manufacturer could be asked to produce a firework from scratch that produces a particular effect.
Whichever course of choosing a firework for sale in the UK is taken it is followed by the procedure of actually getting it to the UK, which involves ensuring all the legislative requirements are met.
Before a firework can be imported into the UK a C.A.D. (Competent Authority Document) has to be obtained from the H.S.E. To obtain the C.A.D. an importer will have had to provide all sorts of information regarding the firework ranging from technical drawings of the firework’s construction to factory code numbers on the outer carton. Obtaining the C.A.D. can be a notoriously slow process. The firework must also not contain chemical compositions banned in the UK and must pass British Standards (or the new European Standard) testing. British Standards testing used to be conducted in the UK but currently fireworks are tested in China prior to shipment. Space in containers, transfer from the point of manufacture to the ports and space onboard container ships all needs to be organised. Finally after a six-week voyage the containers arrive in the UK where they are distributed by lorry to the importer’s storage facility.
Importing fireworks is not for the faint hearted and there is much that can (and does) go wrong in the process, which usually takes about a year. When we started importing rockets from Germany we used to organise the whole thing ourselves, beginning with a trip to the factory in Germany, organising the labelling, arranging for a vehicle to be at the port and then taking the products to be British Standard tested. Even with something arranged so close to home there was always one problem or another, ranging from the wrong labels having been put on the fireworks to incorrect fuses. Fortunately at the time there was still a UK firework manufacturing industry so problems could be rectified. Dealing with a supplier on the other side of the world opens up new possibilities for problems. Fortunately these days there are some very good companies who can handle the whole procedure for you from the initial sourcing right up to the final delivery to your door and today we use those companies who remove many (but not all) of the headaches.
Finally then you have your product here in the UK. About a year will have passed since the pre-production version was fired in China. Hopefully it will have arrived in time for Bonfire Night sales and be as good as the first one you saw fired but you are never 100% sure of what you have got until you open the container doors and get the first one out and go and light it.
With thanks to David Jordan for this informative look behind the scenes. Jordans Fireworks are one of the UK’s leading fireworks retailers.