Chinese lantern sales are on the increase

They anger farmers, concern coastguards and are often mistaken for UFOs - but Chinese lanterns are flying off the shelves and into the skies above the West Midlands as their popularity soars.

Chinese lantern sales are on the increase

They anger farmers, concern coastguards and are often mistaken for UFOs - but Chinese lanterns are flying off the shelves and into the skies above the West Midlands as their popularity soars.

Major stores in the region reported selling hundreds of the lanterns a day in the run-up to New Year, Christmas and Bonfire Night while they are also being released regularly at weddings and even funerals.

The lights, like mini hot air balloons composed of flame, paper and wire, can travel 30 miles.

Discount giant Poundland said today it had sold tens of thousands of the lanterns in the run-up to the festive period.

John Sheppard, manager of the branch in Wolverhampton's Mander Centre, said: "There is huge demand as soon as they come into stock, we were selling literally hundreds a day.

"People are also asking about them for weddings. It seems to be the new thing."

Staff at The Works, in Stourbridge's Ryemarket shopping centre, agreed the tradition of letting off the lanterns for special occasions seems to be growing.

Demand was so high the store sold out of stock during the festive season.

Worker Holly Timperley said: "People were asking if we had any lanterns left even when there were none on the shelves.

"We have sold hundreds of them recently, with demand very high over Christmas and New Year.

"I think people enjoy letting them off to mark a special occasion."

At fancy dress store Sweet & Fancy in Park Road, Bloxwich, about 30 Chinese lanterns were sold for New Year parties.

Ashcroft Funeral Directors based in High Street, Walsall Wood and S.Webb & Son, in Upper High Street, Wednesbury, said they had taken requests from bereaved families for single lanterns to be released following funeral services.

John McManus, funeral director at Ashcroft, said: "We did a funeral of a young person at Streetly Crematorium and the relatives released two of these lanterns."

SP Fireworks in Baswich, Stafford, said it had seen a big increase in sales in the last year.

The lanterns usually cost between £1 and £2.

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