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C O V E R S T O R Y


Green Glow


T


here’s no question that candles are a quick, inexpensive way to brighten a room—and a mood. And with the right product mix and a little education, eco-friendly candles can also translate into lots of green for earth-conscious retailers. Though the market has had to adapt


like all others through the economic wildfi res, manufacturers and retailers are as fired up as ever as they enter the all-important holiday season. Though the National Candle Association reports the


holidays spark 35 percent of annual candle sales, some vendors put that number closer to 60 percent. In response to this revenue opportunity, candle makers have developed new collections and added entry price-point products perfect for heating up gift and home entertainment expenditures. And the industry could use a catalyst. Though it hasn’t


been hit as hard as some consumer products, U.S. candle sales showed a modest uptick of 0.6 percent to $3.7 billion in overall sales, according to Mintel the Chicago-based market research fi rm. It anticipates the industry will continue to fl icker in the uncertain economic winds in the years to come. Barbara Miller, spokesperson for the NCA, is optimistic


that candles sales won’t fl ame out. “Candles are [an] affordable luxury so people continue to buy them for their celebrations and enjoyment because it’s not a major out-of-pocket expense,” she says. To kindle consumer spending in this area, the industry


has adjusted pricing and introduced products that are more fi nancially accessible. Jeffrey Light, president of Irvine, CA-based


132 Fal l 2011 ■ GREENRetai ler


Aroma Naturals, notes that with low consumer confi dence, candle makers were forced to make pricing adjustments. “Almost all candles over $100 are down to $85 to $75. Almost nobody is over $100 in the candle business now because it didn’t make any sense. Those that sold for $50 are now $35,” he says. “The whole top tier of the candle market is gone.” And with that shift, a new entry price point item is burning


bright. Manufacturers report increased interest in tea lights, which provide customers with a guilt-free way to make a special purchase. “Tea lights are an aesthetic trend and a price point response,” says Anna Barrett, general manager of the Morrisville-VT based Way Out Wax brand. “At $3.99, [shoppers] can still buy a little treat and have a little ambiance but they don’t have to agonize over whether or not to spend


$12 or $15 on a larger candle.” In an effort to entice consumers into buying more candles,


many companies are also careful to position their products as an everyday essential—one to be used, depleted and replenished. “We fi nd that people will have a cache [of candles] for when they have visitors, and they won’t use them everyday,” says Debbie Ludington, owner of Sweet Grass Farm of Greenland, NH. “Our products are priced to be everyday affordable so they can use them without burning a luxury item.”


Green light Ensuring customers go green for their next candle purchase means enlightening them to the relative advantages. “From a consumer standpoint, a candle is a candle. Consumers may not understand the difference. What they know is that in big


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