What's your piece of the candle market pie?

Marketing Candles in Untraditional Markets

Some candle makers create candles that are truly unique and so different, that they can command a higher price and sell them successfully through smaller venues. Other candle makers are successful by creating economies of volume and distribute their candles through large distribution networks. Others find a niche and successfully create candles that may only be desired by members of that niche. No matter how you are currently selling your candles, there is always that question in the back of your mind, “Who else would want to buy one of my candles?”

What’s your piece of the candle market pie?

It is commonly held knowledge that the United States candle market is estimated to be roughly 2 billion dollars annually. Take a minute and do the math to see what percentage of the 2 billion represents your share of candle sales… It is reasonable to assume that you may want more than your current share. In order to obtain more share of the candle market, you must do a little research and figure out ways to create new avenues.

According to the National Candle Association, candles are sold principally in three types of retail outlets: department stores; specialty (gift) shops; and mass merchandisers, including drug store chains, supermarkets, and discount stores. Sometimes these avenues are highly competitive and take time to develop the relationships necessary to enter this type of selling network. Future issues of the Enlightener will address tactics for these areas – this article pertains to the alternatives.

One good way to develop new store venues is to get out and visit stores that you may not normally frequent. Stop by a mall or shopping center and see what stores have candle sections and which do not. Look for clues to success in the stores that do have candles and ask employees in stores that do not have candles, “why?” Sometimes the answer is as simple as it was just never presented before. Some of the more obscure stores that do well are pet shops, cigar stores, bakeries, and coffee shops. Be creative with the fragrance names and try to match them to the store’s theme. For example, the pet shop would appreciate a strong fragrance that hides pet odor while the bakery would want more food types of scents.

Another suggestion is to start signing up for catalogs from mail order companies. Take particular note of the overall “feel” of the catalog. Design fragrances or types of candles so the finished candle compliments the catalog. A camping catalog would do well with nature scents such as fir or balsam, while a car parts catalog would do well with car themed candles. Good places to find catalogs are magazines and web searches.

The greatest aspect of making candles is the fact that it is quite easy to make a prototype to present to prospective retailers. Many retailers brand all of their items with the store logo, so a candle could easily fit that description. It is rather easy to obtain the image from their website and make a candle using their logo or their store colors. For added value, create a custom store display concept that fits their store. It may cost you a few dollars up front, but it ensures that space in their store is reserved for your line of candles.

Another good way to sell candles is to contact companies that sell extremely expensive products or services that require extensive customer relationships for future sales. Good examples are realtors, lawyers, car dealers, landscapers, and equipment sellers. Create a candle that these companies can give away as a gift with purchase.

Adding utility to the candles does well for the candle maker. Try to put an added value such as making it easy to light or putting on a protective bottom to help eliminate damage to furniture due to heat. A fireproof lid made of glass or metal makes it easier to extinguish. Customers get familiar with the little value added features and will come back asking for more.

Many candle makers have great success using online auctions and directories. One good example is the Ebay auction website. They allow you to set up a “storefront” so customers can find you once they become loyal to your products. This is an inexpensive way to have your own website without laying out the large amounts of capital that are necessary for traditional website design and hosting. By becoming a member of different directories, you can increase awareness of your candle website by taking advantage of group marketing efforts. The directory website is able to combine all the members keywords and offerings into one easy to find location on the web.

A final route to take is to create fundraisers or theme specific candles. This is an excellent way to sell candles during other times of the year aside from the busy holiday season. Some communities have an annual celebration that may be a good venue, while others may need a way to earn money for a particular community project. By keeping active in the community and joining clubs in your area, you can effectively network with other businesses and organizations that may want to purchase candles.

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