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Party City Closing 43 Stores As Helium Shortage Hurts Sales

The CEO of Party City cited a global helium shortage as he announced on Thursday that the retail chain will close 45 of its 870 stores this year. The shortage has been hitting party supply stores particularly hard for months, CNBC reported last month. Miami Herald reports: Party City CEO James Harrison said in February that the company was already missing its revenue "in large part due to helium supply pressures," according to CNBC, which reports that the company has experimented with "decorative air-filled balloons -- in lieu of the real thing. The company didn't say which stores will close this year.

"The problem is, helium is being used up faster than it can be produced these days," Anders Bylund, an analyst at Motley Fool, said in an investing note. "Helium shortages fluctuate over time and across geographical markets, but anywhere between 50 and 200 of Party City's 850 stores don't have any helium in their tanks at any given time." Bylund added: "Helium may be the second most plentiful element in the universe, but it's also one of the lightest and doesn't form molecules easily with heavier atoms. Hence, the helium we use ends up floating into space, never to be seen again. There is no economically efficient way to manufacture the gas, so the bulk of the worldwide helium supply is a byproduct of natural gas extraction."

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