When Small Flames Can Ignite Big Sales
Selling More Candles at Gift Stores, Wineries, Boutiques and Candle Stores

There’s something universal about candles. At home in a wide range of retail settings, candles frequently find their way into the hands of shoppers who arrived with the initial intent of buying something else entirely. Many retailers have discovered they’re a great add-on purchase and well worth the shelf space. Shopkeepers from a gift store, a winery, a clothing boutique and a business whose specialty is the making and selling of candles identify some of their top-selling types and scents and share tips on how they boost sales.

Set in a large Victorian house, Spoiled Rotten gift shop in Ogunquit, Maine, beckons invitingly. There are two stories and seven rooms chock-full of merchandise including a good selection of candles. Their top-sellers are from the Root Candles line, America’s oldest candle-making company, first established in 1869. Made from all natural beeswax and essential oils, they offer a long lasting aromatic bouquet that is always true to nature. “I’ve been buying them for ten years. It’s actually how I started working here at Spoiled Rotten,” said Store Manager Ellie Clark. It turns out she came in to buy a candle one day and got a job offer in the bargain! “Root Candles don’t soot, they don’t smoke, they burn evenly all the way down to the bottom. They’re just the best candle,” she stated.

Proprietress Kim Sorden with Maylee Mora working on candles at Magic Fairy Candles. A great product, talking with current customers, Instagram, Facebook and persistence have all contributed to the business’ growth.

Since Root Candles come in over fifty scents, Clark finds it hard to narrow down a customer favorite. “Crisp scents, floral scents – it’s hard to single out one that sells better than the other. It just depends on the customer,” she said. The staff at Spoiled Rotten are very good about talking up the brand to customers. “We emphasize what a good value these candles are since they have incredibly long burn times. And we find out what kind of scents they like and make suggestions.” If Clark were pressed to identify a top-selling scent, it might be one from the special signature series candles that Root Candles creates specifically for Spoiled Rotten. For instance, this past autumn, the company crafted a candle called Ogunquit Fest that conjured up seasonal elements and soon followed that creation up with one called Christmas by the Sea. “It tied in with an event we were having. They even make custom labels for us,” Clark said.

The San Antonio Winery in Ontario, Calif., is home to a tasting room, event venue and newly remodeled wine store and gift boutique. While browsing wine selections for the perfect vintage to take home, shoppers are prone to pick up other gift items on display, including candles. The 1,000-square-foot boutique carries a good cross-section featuring scents that change with the seasons. Citronella candles are popular in the summer while Christmas ushers in scents like white cranberry, wine and pine, and mulled wine. At other times of year orange blossom and cedarwood scented candles are de rigueur, or quite possibly a bergamot patchouli rosewood variety or maybe a lavender mint. However, there is one candle variety that makes a splash year-round. That would be a cabernet-scented one. The gift boutique also carries cabernet-scented room diffusers, potpourri and sachets made by the same company.

The secret to selling more candles lies in display, according to San Antonio Winery Manager Katie Chamberlain. She relies on a particular employee’s gift for presenting things in new ways. “Even if we’ve had a candle variety for a while, this employee will switch things up as to how it’s displayed and I’ll walk in and say ‘oh, I didn’t realize we had this,’” she said. Chamberlain feels if she is suddenly seeing merchandise with fresh eyes, chances are customers are seeing it too!

Rowe Boutique in Columbus, Ohio, offers women’s apparel and accessories and the added bonus of three brands of candles crafted by a local company. Pictured is Owner Maren Roth.

People have fashion on their minds when they step into Rowe Boutique in Columbus, Ohio. The idea they might find a candle they can’t live without among the on-trend women’s apparel and accessories offerings found inside likely never occurred to them. That’s before they get a whiff of the wondrous scents given off by one of three brands of candles Owner Maren Roth usually has burning. “A local candle company called Candle Lab pours us a custom scent. People always comment on it when they come into the store. We love having something that really represents Rowe and our brand,” she said. The 1400-square-foot retail space also features candles from the Capri Blue line. “Two of their scents – a really light and fresh one called Modern Mint and the slightly sweeter Blue Jean – sell really well. And then our Rowe Candle is a little muskier,” Roth added.

Recently, Rowe Boutique began carrying another line of candles and oils called Saint Main. Produced by a woman who also lives in Ohio, the candles are all natural soy with a crystal in the bottom. “She has them blessed by a shaman so they’re supposed to give off the given property of the crystal,” Roth explained. “There are two scents – one is called Divinity and the other Adoration – that are just out of this world! I probably re-order those more than any other candle. They come in a nice little vessel and when it’s all burnt, you can re-use it plus there is the added bonus of a crystal you can keep,” Rowe concluded.

Magic Fairy Candles’ Proprietress Kim Sorden withMaylee Mora, Misty Bergstrum and Bradley Books. Sorden has been hand-crafting candles in small batches for over 15 years using non-GMO soy wax and pure fragrance and essential oils for her Longmont, Colo., business.

Candles are the main focus at Magic Fairy Candles in Longmont, Colo. Proprietress Kim Sorden has been lovingly hand-crafting them in small batches for well over 15 years using only non-GMO soy wax, pure fragrance and essential oils like lavender, rose and orange. Her top-selling product is a line called Intentional Life. “There are five scents and the label features a beautiful mudra and a metta prayer or an intention. The candle also has a crystal in it. I think people are drawn to these candles because of what they say and how they make them feel,” said Sorden.  She and two staff members hand-pour and hand-package all of their products in a 3,000-square-foot space, half of which is devoted to manufacturing and the other half to retail.

The inherent nature of certain scents guides Sorden and her team when they craft their custom products. “For instance, rose geranium opens your heart. Orange or any kind of citrus is a mood elevator. Frankincense is very grounding and good for your health,” she explained. At Magic Fairy Candles, they believe in taking extra time to talk to their current customers. “They’re your biggest asset. In terms of drawing customers into our store, Instagram and Facebook are probably our best friends,” Sorden continued. Magic Fairy Candles prospects and profits from placement in other retail spaces as well – venues like yoga and fitness studios, hair salons, boutiques and gift stores also carry their products. “There is nothing like what we are doing on the market. It’s just getting it out in front of people. You have to be persistent,” she concluded. 

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