On our next trip around the world, we stop in New Zealand to learn what unique challenges balloon businesses face and what cultural differences they celebrate.

About New Zealand

CURRENCY: New Zealand Dollar
CURRENCY CONVERSION: $1 USD = $1.46 New Zealand dollars
LANGUAGE: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages, but English is the most widely spoken language.
POPULATION: The population is estimated at 5 million.
FAST FACT: Thirty percent of the country is a national reserve, with more sheep than people!

Questions and Answers

Would you say balloons are trendy and popular in your country/market?

Zappo: Yes!

Pip: Balloons are definitely a key part of events and celebrations. We even had a telecom provider use a Balloon Dog as part of their advertising.

Christa: Balloons are very popular in New Zealand and getting more so. Foil and Latex balloons regularly appear on the screen.

Vicky: I think people are looking to celebrate after a hard couple of years globally, and balloons add joy to any occasion. They are finding inspiration from international websites, and we are experiencing a huge spike in organic decorating as it is relatively new and funky here in New Zealand. Balloons are not often seen in advertising here in New Zealand, unfortunately.

Sylvia: Yes, balloons are big in celebrations at the moment

Is balloon popularity growing or decreasing in your country?

Zappo: I think it is growing.

Pip: With many celebrities posting photos of Organic Arches or Garlands, along with the growth of gender reveals, balloon love is definitely on the rise!

Christa: Increasing for sure. I think the first total Covid lockdown we had here in March 2020 with a duration of several weeks gave a lot of people time to think about their job and whether or not it made them happy and satisfied. From that time forward, we have seen a huge growth in the décor, event, styling, retail business as people want to realise their creativity and do something truly satisfying.

Vicky: Definitely growing and following overseas trends.

Sylvia: I would say balloon décor is increasing in popularity based on the large number of people entering the business over the last year.

What balloon trend have you noticed in your country?

Zappo: They are changing all the time.

Pip: Organics all the way!

Christa: “Naturals” we call them, Blush, Chocolate, Mocha, Peach, Ivory, Sand, Eucalyptus and Rosewood and all the double stuffed colour combos that can be achieved with these gorgeous colours.

Vicky: Lots of organics and large bouquets - things that are different and 'over the top'.

Sylvia: Garlands using custom colours with more and more elaborate props and backdrops. Usual party themes

What types of celebrations are popular for balloons in your business?

Zappo: Birthdays.

Pip: For me birthday parties and I love them. I get to create a custom piece for the guest of honour, twist for the guests, and finish with some super silly magic, to leave them laughing.

Christa: Birthdays, babies, weddings, anniversaries. Photo walls using Organic Décor and Mesh frames.

Vicky: Birthdays, engagements, weddings, gender reveals, and corporate celebrations.

Sylvia: Birthdays (21st, 1st, 5th, 50th, etc.), baby showers, and some corporate celebrations

When is your busiest time of year? What about the slowest?

Zappo: I’m constantly busy, but the months of December and January are the busiest times. The rest of the year, I work as much as I want.

Pip: The beginning of the year is busy with trade shows and field days, as it is our summertime. And of course, the end of the year with lots of Christmas parties building up to December. The slowest would be July, August as it is mid-winter for us.

Christa: January is usually off to a slow start but soon picks up as Valentine’s Day is our biggest sales occasion, followed by Christmas and Halloween. We tend to be busy all year round. We are a country that loves a celebration!

Vicky: Totally unknown really. This year's winter has been crazy, but preparations are well underway for the spring/summer wedding season.

Sylvia: Busiest October through to mid-December, and then January through to April. July to September slowest.

Some of Zappo's Work

Zappo Bates
Zappo The Magician
Entertainer in Greytown, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Are there many independent balloon retailers (storefronts) in your country, or are mass retail chains more common?

Zappo: 50/50.

Pip: Because New Zealand is a small country, mass retail chains are more common – and balloons are included as part of their band but not their main selling point.

Christa: More independent retailers than chain stores for sure and a large number of decorators and stylists who are home-based. Instagram and Facebook-based companies are a huge new presence driven by beautiful images.

Vicky: Not a lot of independent retailers. Mass retail chains with a 'corner' dedicated to balloons are more common. However, staff do not have great balloon training so what is available from them is very limited. This leaves a great market for experienced 'balloonies' to cater.

Sylvia: Not too many retail storefronts but many independent home-based decorators. A few mass retail chains.

What is the craziest or most bizarre balloon request you have ever received?

Zappo: To make a petrol station (from a child). I'm a twister, not a decorator!

Pip: When working for Zoo Moo TV, I had to make a Dung Beetle, complete with dung and many other creatures that I had never even heard of, so lots of research was involved. My favourite has to be an eight-year-old girl who asked me if I could make her favourite animal…..wait for it….an Echinoderm! She wanted it pink and with a hat!

Christa: A Cloudbuster used by Google Maps for some mapping done in a remote part of New Zealand.

Vicky: "So latex is biodegradable - so are all your balloons edible?"

How/where do you do most of your business? Online or in-person?

Zappo: 100% in person.

Pip: Mostly online, although I gain a lot of business because people have seen me perform in person.

Christa: Social media has been huge for the balloon business in New Zealand. From the orders we receive, we can tell when someone has posted décor featuring particular colours on social media. That tends to make up the majority of our sales for a period of time until the next eye-catching display features.

Vicky: Online enquiries have taken over from phone contact, but I try and get into a verbal discussion so I can share my expertise. This shows the customer I have the time to spend with them, making sure I understand exactly what they want.

Sylvia: Social Media and Word of Mouth

What about marketing? How/where do you get most of your customers?

Zappo: Word of mouth and through my website and Facebook.

Pip: Most of my business is through word of mouth. My social media presence certainly backs up my business and showcases my standard of work.

Christa: Word of mouth has been great for us. Social media reaches a lot of people, but there will always be the section of the market that relates best to emails, phone calls, and visits.

Vicky: Word of mouth and repeat customers are huge for me and invaluable. After they have had a good experience, they will tell others. Enquiries originate from my website, Facebook, or Instagram.

Some of Pip's Work

Pip Milford-Hughes
Pippity-Pop! - Balloonologist
Twister/Entertainer; Dabbling in Decor in Dunedin, New Zealand

Who is your target market/common customer?

Zappo: Mostly parents.

Pip: Being a Balloon Artist/ Twister, my common market is entertaining at children’s birthday parties and performing line work at events.

Christa: Party retail stores, Florists, Stylists, Event Decorators, Entertainers, Clowns, and Magicians. The largest percentage of customers, though, is women running their businesses. As expected, with our Online business customers, most are millennials, but we have a few customers over the age of 80!

Vicky: Corporate work for big events is great, generated from personal assistants requesting quotes. But there are individuals looking for balloons for their grandchildren, birthday celebrations, engagements, weddings, etc. All ages and all demographics.

Sylvia: Mainly individuals from 18 – 60 and mainly female. Corporates for anniversary celebrations, promotions, or staff thank you.

How has diversity played a part in your career? What challenges and opportunities have been presented?

Zappo: Opportunities are always happening for me. As an entertainer, every gig is different, and then that leads to another one. COVID slowed me down for seven weeks, but that's all. We are very blessed in New Zealand with what’s happening in the world.

Pip: I have always felt that while Latex is our common tool of the trade, Décor and Balloon Twisting Entertainers are their entities within the industry with different needs and challenges. As mentioned earlier, Organics are becoming extremely popular in my City. With starting to do a lot more Décor, I am enjoying the differences of the art. I am very keen to continue to step out of my comfort zone and say YES to any challenge ahead. When looking at my business model, my background has been in telecommunications, business, and customer service. So, wanting to provide the best service possible and exceeding expectations is ingrained. However, I think the pandemic has challenged us all to think outside the box and create new opportunities for ourselves, often stepping outside our comfort zones.

Christa: Part of the service we provide as a distributor is to supply ongoing education. We have been very lucky to host a range of overseas talent as our instructors. The instructors provide an insight into their business and way of doing things and where they come from and how their market varies from ours, and the similarities we share.

Vicky: Celebrations are very important to some cultures and of great significance. It is great to be able to cater to everyone's needs.

What unique challenges do you face in your country?

Pip: New Zealand is VERY environmentally conscious. The last few years, at every event I have attended, I have used the opportunity to educate in a fun way what latex balloons are made from and that they can be composted. I even created a Balloon Flower Windmill that was fully biodegradable. I have just recently been part of our Science Festival, which is a huge leap forward.

Christa: Covid has probably presented the biggest challenge we have had to face to date. Businesses being forced to close their doors to slow the spread of the virus, stock being in short supply, and worldwide shipping issues have been a challenge which sadly, some retailers have not been able to make their way through.

Vicky: We pay a lot for supplies as we are at the 'bottom of the world.' Trying to give the customer a good value for money can be challenging.

Sylvia: At the present, the concerns that Covid could again become a huge blockage to celebrations taking place and therefore impacting our countries economy and hence my livelihood.

Some of Vicky's Work

Vicky Richards
Balloon Art New Zealand
Decorator in Christchurch, New Zealand

What unique cultural customs in your country create challenges or opportunities for you?

Zappo: The odd time I take some content out of the show because of beliefs or if a child has allergies to balloons etc

Pip: The biggest challenge in my City is MONEY and finding people willing to spend it!

Christa: It has to be celebrating your 21st birthday, but due to the US tradition of "Sweet 16," we have noticed this has slowed.

Sylvia: I have worked for many communities and have found no unique cultural challenges or opportunities, although I have done balloon décor for specific cultural celebrations, e.g., Bar mitzvah, Sikh, etc.

What is your biggest challenge as a business owner in your country?

Zappo: My biggest challenge is making sure I keep up with everything a self-employed person is required to do.

Pip: For me, it's access to the product. I live at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. Our main distributor lives at the top of the North Island. So shipping between Islands, as you can imagine, is quite an added expense and can often take days to arrive.

Christa: Supply is probably our biggest issue as we are at the bottom of the world, so things take longer to reach us, and we are a smaller market. The cost of shipping is very high.

Vicky: The same as everyone else - a global pandemic! It is so unpredictable. Also, awareness of New Zealand's clean, green image and potential environmental damage when balloons are not disposed of correctly. However, this rule is not different for any other consumable item - they all must be disposed of correctly to help keep our world free from unnecessary waste.

Sylvia: At present some challenges with balloon supply. 

Some of Sylvia's Work

Sylvia Rivers
Champers Party Shop
Decorator in Auckland, New Zealand

We have found that balloons are a universal language of joy that crosses all socioeconomic, cultural, and religious beliefs. Do you have any stories or anecdotes you'd like to share that support that sentiment?

Zappo: Balloons make all people smile, whether they are young or old.

Pip: Being a 'Twister,' as you can imagine, the stories are never-ending. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • I made a hedgehog for a very patient 11-year-old boy, who promptly burst into tears and ran away (I felt absolutely terrible). He arrived back with his Mum, who explained they were on holiday, and whenever he sees a Balloon Artist he asks for his favourite animal, you guessed it, a hedgehog. I was the first ever to make him one, and he was so overcome, he just couldn't process it. I received the most heartfelt Thank You and BIGGEST HUG in my life.
  • "Hello, we were wondering, can you make a HUGE Brain for our international Brain Research convention? – and maybe provide a team-building exercise?" After all the research I had to do to create my brain, I think I could now assist in theatre! It was one of the best adult events I have done. I discovered Brain surgeons have fabulous senses of humour.
  • I introduced myself "Hi, I'm Pippity-Pop! Your Balloonologist for the evening. I wanted to be a psychologist but turned up to the wrong class at uni (university)," to which I received the quickest response ever from the head lecturer. "So did I!” I just knew it was going to be a great night.
  • I have a daughter with special needs, so I am involved with those who face challenges daily in our community. Balloon sculptures can be chosen and received without the need for verbal language; Balloons are tactile and can be felt by those who are sight-impaired; Balloons have no age limit, nor do they judge gender, colour, or social status. They provide a little escapism. So the absolute pure joy you receive back from those who face incredible challenges every single day while living life to the fullest is exactly why I love what I do.

Vicky: During the pandemic, I have done a lot of deliveries, organized from overseas, for families that can't get here to be with loved ones for birthdays, funerals, or to celebrate new births. There is always such joy on the faces of the receivers of these gifts. I love to get a photo to send back to the customer.

Sylvia: Agreed, and as I have stated above, we have done many events covering a wide spectrum of celebrations from traditional Western, Maori, Asian, Eastern, and Middle Eastern communities.

Anything else you think people should know about your country/region?

Zappo: A great place to live, and again, I am very blessed to live in New Zealand

Christa: New Zealand is the most beautiful country full of kind, generous, and hardworking people. We have faced Covid 19 as a nation and have successfully managed the virus to continue to run our businesses and, more importantly, our lives, as close to pre Covid days as possible. We are blessed to live in New Zealand and work in an industry we truly love.

Vicky: We have a beautiful country, only more beautiful when embellished with balloons!

Sylvia: Thankfully, we are free of Covid at this point, which is a blessing for our industry as it seems to be flourishing.