/ Home & Energy

Sainsbury’s isn’t selling fireworks this year – is it the right call?

Sainsbury’s has become the first major supermarket to stop selling fireworks, but do you agree with its decision? And will other supermarkets follow suit?

03/11/2020: Update

Sainsbury’s has confirmed its decision not to sell fireworks will extend to this year:

With many Bonfire Night events called off due to the pandemic this year, it’s likely that most of the fireworks we do see and hear this Thursday will be back garden displays.

Do you support Sainsbury’s continued decision not to stock them? Should other supermarkets follow their lead?

01/11/2019: Sainsbury’s stops selling fireworks

As Bonfire Night approaches the debate over whether fireworks should continue to be sold to the general public will always resurface. It’s one I’ve written about before here on Which? Conversation.

When we posted about the subject on Facebook back in 2016 it sparked a huge debate around the responsible use and sale of them.

Last year, a petition to ban them ended up attracting more than 300,000 signatures. This is, without question, a topic that people feel very strongly about.

Sainsbury’s stops selling fireworks

This year’s debate has taken a further twist, with Sainsbury’s becoming the first major supermarket to stop selling them completely.

It hasn’t said exactly why the decision has been taken, but did tell the BBC that the information was commercially sensitive.

In that case, perhaps it’s a cost-related decision rather than one down to campaigning pressure. But whatever the reason, those who want to see them banned have been expressing their support for the supermarket’s decision.

Regardless of the reasons behind the move, do you support Sainsbury’s decision to stop selling fireworks?

Last year we discussed whether back garden bonfire and fireworks events were safe enough.

Kate pointed out that while there are no specific bonfire bans in the UK, there are some restrictions that people should definitely be aware of.

This includes the fact that you could be fined if you allow smoke to drift across a road and become a danger to traffic.

Experiences with bonfires and fireworks

Do you think back garden displays are safe? Speaking from experience, I have my doubts. When I was around four years old, my family attended a display in a friend’s back garden.

After a rocket was lit, it became dislodged at the last possible moment and came hurtling towards me and my dad. I have his quick reactions and a very thick leather jacket to thank for not being seriously injured – he was able to shield me from it just in time.

Fortunately I was ok, if a little shaken, especially after seeing the huge hole burnt through the leather. If you are having a display this year please do be as careful as possible, especially if there are children around.

Have you ever had any similar experiences to mine? Do you want to see the sale of fireworks banned in the UK? Should they be limited to officially organised events only?

Every year the calls seem to get louder – perhaps it’s just a matter of time?

How do you feel about Sainsbury's not selling fireworks this year?

It's a good decision (97%, 4,560 Votes)

It's a bad decision (2%, 113 Votes)

Other (Tell us why in the comments) (0%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,692

Loading ... Loading ...
Susan Toon says:
1 November 2019

Fireworks and bonfires are all part if global warming and stopping them is something we can do to reduce our country” s carbon footprint. It’s kinder to pets and wildlife too.

Jon Kitchen says:
3 November 2019

OK, so I take it Susan you drive an electric car, don’t use gas for cooking or central heating, don’t ever use Air travel and don’t eat any meat product from livestock that is produced for fast food yield?

As Jon says, if the need to control our CO2 emissions is a key factor in the benefits of banning the public sales of fireworks, then I fear for the future of all our fine heritage steam railways.

They can annoy animals with all that whistling. Perhaps they will, one day, all have to be converted to electric boilers – solar panels on the carriage roofs?

Stuart Rackley says:
1 November 2019

Well done Sainsbury! We have two West Highland Whites who are absolutely terrified when the fireworks start. It might not be so bad if those letting them off confined their fun to just 3 nights – Duwali, Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes – but around here there is a continual noise after dark for best part of a fortnight. Calming pills from the vet have little effect and our poor dogs (and us) are nervous wrecks at the end of the period.

Anita Purnell says:
1 November 2019

Fireworks in “amateur” hands are not a good idea. Leave it to the professionals.

Hannah Cook says:
5 November 2019

Dogs in “amateur” hands are not a good idea. Leave it to the professionals (or maybe responsible people, which hopefully most of us are).

Oh yes, I’m an amateur, but I know how to let off a firework. Never had a problem yet!
Plus I’m more than capable at keeping my Dogs under control.

Well done Sainsbury! Terrible for pets, and we hate the noise too. Some are sound-less – that’s much better already.

Nick Simpson says:
1 November 2019

No, this is not inevitable.
This is all just a further example of the snowflake generation’s feeble attempts to restrict people’s enjoyment
I grew up enjoying bonfire night and fireworks and so have my children and their children – we will continue to enjoy them
Sainsbury’s have lost a sale and Tesco’s have benefitted – more fool them.

You obviously don’t have an animal in your family. If you did you would realise the massive distress that it cause’s. I don’t want to see organised display being stopped. I enjoy them as much as yourself, all I ask is that they are restricted to a limited period and a ban on the sale to fireworks to the general public. This will reduce the amount of accidents that continue to impact on the already stretched NHS at this time of year.

Matt says:
1 November 2019

With the greatest of respect Nick, I am not a snowflake I am however an autistic person with noise sensitive issues and every time a firework goes off it causes me have a meltdown! What is wrong with people going to displays like when I was a kid, yes there are people out there who buy fireworks responsibly for their children, but then there are the idiots who think it’s funny to tie a rocket to a cat’s tail! They should be banned to the public, and only available to organised firework displays, for which they should have to apply for a licence.

Hannah Cook says:
3 November 2019

so Matt even though you acknowledge that there are people who buy fireworks responsibly, but because as you say there are ‘the idiots who tie rockets to a cats tail’ we should ban fireworks to the public? I wonder what else do the public use irresponsibly that we could propose a ban for..

Hannah, as an ex-target shooter, I know all too well that this was essentially the approach adopted towards target pistols, after the tragic Dunblane mass shooting in 1996.

A more recent example of something dangerous that we have recently banned was using hand held mobiles while driving. I regularly see breaches of that ban, especially when I’m walking by folk sat in traffic jams.

I do also enjoy the occasional family bonfire and fireworks, but certainly don’t indulge in this every year. In my case it is more like once every 10 years. And as regards the celebration of Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament, let’s face it, the guy didn’t do a good enough job, did he 😉

“recently banned was using hand held mobiles while driving“. But mobile phones have not been banned. Using them sensibly is still “permitted”. Just what we should do with fireworks.

I have no objections to small, back garden celebrations on Nov. 5th (or one day either side if the 5th is a sunday), with pretty coloured sprays and children going ooh! and Aaah!, but that was my childhood fifty -odd years ago. Nowadays it’s constant banging all night long throughout October and most of November. Our poor cat has been hiding under a chair for several weeks now instead of patrolling her territory as she should be.
The wide availability of industrial scale fireworks (which I am at a loss to understand how people can afford) for a large part of the year is one cause of this unpleasantness and has only been a thing for a couple of decades. Possibly only since the so-called Millennium celebrations. I applaud Sainsbury’s decision not to indulge in this antisocial phenomena any longer – whether their motives were altruistic or not.

The Intro says “As Bonfire Night approaches the debate over whether fireworks will always resurface”.Some words missing surely.

Nick is entitled to his view but I think it is irresponsible. I don’t think it is a “snowflake” reaction but a sensible response to an unnecessary, wasteful and environmentally harmful activity that also causes anxiety to many people, upsets pets and other creatures, can cause injuries and damage, and requires the fire and rescue services to mount an expensive operation to provide full cover for many hours each time.

There are other ways to enjoy the Guy Fawkes anniversary and, while organised displays are just as wasteful and noisy, they are concentrated, supervised, and much safer overall, and with other associated experiences can provide a great night out with superior displays.

Selling fireworks in a supermarket is an expensive and not necessarily profitable operation any more. A separate stall has to be set up and it has to be staffed throughout the opening period. The margin on fireworks is probably not great and storage and handling requirements require careful management. I applaud Sainsbury’s decision and hope it leads the other grocers to follow suit.

I commend Sainsburys on their decision. I strongly believe that fireworks be limited to licensed events. This allows everyone to know in advance of the timing of bangs and rockets, etc. Hopefully, it will also lead to fewer silly, often serious, accidents.

But this should be a government-led reform, but unfortunately the government seems incapable of making a cup of tea, let alone reforming anything at the moment!

I remember the innocent pleasure of bonfire night as a child. Parental control ensured all was safe and those rockets and roman candles were a real spectacle for us. The unwritten rule was that within a couple of days scope for bad weather, bonfire night took place and that was it. Nothing before and nothing afterwards. Building the fire added to the anticipation though we didn’t usually bother with a guy and no one gave a thought about such medieval barbarity anyway. A little later on in life and we were able to buy bangers which we let off in the garden around the start of November, oblivious of danger but sensible enough never to throw them or go near when they were lit. Pocket money would only allow a few bangs to disturb the neighbours.
As with many things, growing up took the magic away and fireworks became an expensive waste of money. The big displays were, and are, spectacular and for most people a garden bonfire is either illegal or impossible. A community event is fun and usually safe. What has changed is that fireworks have become bigger and noisier and people have parties for the season rather than one night in the year. The loud bangs are startling, unpredictable and frequent . In the recent past explosions have also become more sinister and one hopes that fireworks don’t cover clandestine activity. A small part of me wants young children to experience the fun we had, but times have changed. The group event brings people together and there is no need to sell fireworks in shops any more.

I see no issue with people enjoying fireworks gatherings to celebrate a long held tradition in the UK of which we have fewer and fewer. I do also agree with the distress people (and their pets) feel with fireworks being set off for weeks before and after the night itself. This is fairly easy to legislate against and should be the preferred compromise on both sides. You have to respect people’s rights to fireworks in the same way people respect people’s rights to own pets (some of which bark 365 days of the year I might add).

For those making the green argument who own pets, it’s probably worth having a think about the environmental impact that additional living thing is having on the planet! The impact due to the food they eat (which in most cases is meat based and/or requires factory resources to be produced), medicines required (which again require resources to be produced and often come in plastic packaging) along with additional requirements on our water supply for your pet to drink and be washed, and lastly the waste they produce, which needs disposing off. There are an estimated 10 million dogs and 11 million cats in the UK. That’s 1 for every 3 people!

Peter Spring says:
1 November 2019

It’s not just pets that are terrified. Wildlife are, too. Are meat-eating pets unsustainable? You make some pertinent points about which I have pondered myself, but as Extinction Rebellion acknowledges, we are all hypocrites including themselves. Our society is geared around cars, flying, warm houses, meat and dairy, owing too much stuff and throwing too much away, etc. It will be very hard getting out of this downward spiral but we must, and very soon.
Yet, pets are a great comfort to the lonely, often elderly citizens, and especially to anxious young people, frightened by the climate change emergency and other horrors blighting their future. Anyway, the aspects of pets you raise are a miniscule problem when you consider that BP, Cuadrilla and Shell are even now still looking for more and more oil and gas to burn to the atmosphere and Morgan Chase, Citi, Barclays etc. are still happily financing such explorations. Madness! Join XR – with your cat and dog.

The local Tesco has a display of some very expensive fireworks and you would need a big garden to use them safely, since the local display by the Lions does not allow visitors to use their own fireworks.

When I was a kid my parents bought a small box of fireworks from the village newsagent and I learned how to use these potentially dangerous items in a safe way. Now, bigger is seen as better and it would be easy to spend hundreds of pounds on fireworks in supermarkets.

Perhaps it’s time we have some compromises, and I suggest that retailers stop selling fireworks that are better fitted to public displays.

I live within a mile of our local public display and will be there on 5 November. The Lions bleat about the cost of running the event, but if they were less extravagant in their choice of fireworks I’m sure the locals would still visit.

A neighbour once set of a massive display in their 5m long garden. It did not end well for the (thankfully not adjoining) fence.

Dr N R Brereton says:
1 November 2019

I don’t think banning firework sales is necessarily a good or bad thing although given a simple choice I would ban them.
I don’t wish to be a spoilsport because I’ve enjoyed fireworks as much as most people.
The real problem is people not sticking to November 5th. During bonfire week it seems that someone somewhere is letting off fireworks almost every evening, especially the two weekends either side of the 5th. Then there’s New Year’s Eve, birthday celebrations, all adding up to a lot of bangs.

I suspect your view of Fireworks and Bonfire night is determined largely by where you live. Living where we do we hear no fireworks at all, until Nov 5th and possibly the New Year, when a local Hotel over the river celebrates.

But for the 93% of those who live in a city I can sympathise with their concern about the constant explosions, high pitched shrieks and general rowdiness that often dominate city centres for a couple of months prior to the day.

Absolutely. As Abby points out elsewhere it’s not sensible to have a large display in a small garden. Twice a year is quite enough.

I remember moving to England and being shocked that you could by what is essentially explosives in the supermarket. I’m not a big fan of them and do wish people would be more considerate of pets and people with conditions that make them a lot scarier. If you know there are a few days a year you can expect them you can plan for that but if they are just going off randomly it can be traumatic time of the year for many people.

On a related note – I noticed this article this morning about the dangers of fireworks. Let’s all spare a thought for the hand surgeons who will be busy over this time of the year.


On a very lighthearted note – does anyone remember indoor fireworks? I dread to think what chemicals I inhaled as a child with those! 😀

Some rather wimpy ones are still available – we had a few last Christmas.

Dale Chaplin says:
1 November 2019

It was about 50 years ago, I was about 12 years old, the local neighbours organised a bonfire and fireworks in an adjacent field. Each family contributed some fireworks. I was wearing an anorak and had some fireworks in my front pocket. Somehow one caught light and the rest started up as well. A very quick thinking person by me ripped the anorak off me and I was very lucky not to have any injuries at all.

Since that incident it has not stopped my enjoyment of firework displays but at any informal firework party that I attend I tell my story and make sure safety is a priority.

As fireworks are becoming more complex safety is more of an issue and I agree that more regulation is required. I would like to see all sales banned to individual people and anyone wishing to organise a display has to obtain a licence to buy fireworks.

Peter Spring says:
1 November 2019

Great that there is overwhelming support for Sainsbury’s courageous stand on this, although it could make commercial sense, as others point out. The green arguments: Gross atmospheric and ground pollution, especially from the rare heavy metals that produce the pretty colours; All the litter; Terrifying wildlife as well as pets. Ethical arguments: Celebrating freedom from tyranny is one thing but symbolising Fawkes’ torture and execution by burning to death through The Guy is another – hardly the stuff for children. Antisocial behaviour: inevitably louts get hold of locally sold fireworks and let them off at all hours for several weeks, often aimed at or even tied to pets.
We need a more sustainable alternative. Perhaps beautifully designed light shows against a huge screen on a large building? Led By Donkeys did a great one onto the refurbishment coverings on Big Ben and even more spectacularly on the White Cliffs of Dover.

I was under the impression that there is a by-law prohibiting the use of fireworks after 23:00, even so, as with so many rules/laws these days, who is going to police/uphold such rules? I too get fed up with bangs and shrieks at 02:00 in the morning!

It is more than a bye-law, Mark – it is by Act of Parliament, no less, that fireworks must not be set off between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm except
>on Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight, and
> on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1:00 am

There should never be any fireworks at 2:00 am but by the time it is reported the police have gone to bed.

I meant to write that “fireworks must not be set off between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am except” . . .

I wholeheartedly support Sainsbury’s decision. Fireworks should not be sold to members of the public. Only last night police in Welling had fireworks used against them.

Susan says:
1 November 2019

My daughter’s cats are terrified of the loud bangs even when they’re indoors. And you rarely hear mentioned the frightening effect on wildlife – foxes, hedgehogs, birds etc.