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Scented Candles Sales Burning Up

December 15, 1998

ELKIN, N.C. (AP) _ Filling a room with the aroma of Christmas cookies baking in the oven or freshly-cut evergreen boughs decorating the mantle can be as easy as lighting a candle.

Fragrances like ``Hollyberry,″ ``Christmas Cookie,″ and ``Home for the Holidays,″ have helped candlemakers propel candle sales into a $2 billion a year business.

``It’s so much more than for a practical use,″ said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. ``It’s definitely a catching trend for home decorating.″

For the past five years, sales of candles, especially scented candles, have been growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent annually. The holidays are an especially popular time as people buy candles to burn or to give as gifts.

Each’s of the nation’s 50 major candle manufacturers can make 1,000 to 2,000 different varieties of candles, encompassing different colors, shapes, sizes or scents, according to the National Candle Association. And these days, its the smell that sells.

``The expansion of fragrance products is incredible,″ said Larry Powell, project manager at Candle Corp. of America’s plant in Elkin. ``Anything in fragrance is growing.″

The demand has companies going beyond traditional aromas like bayberry, a scent used by candlemakers as far back as Colonial times.

Candle Corp. makes about 3,500 varieties of candles, including orange-scented jar candles, shiny silver dinner tapers and forest green three-wicked colonnades. It makes about 200 different scented candles and introduced two new scents _ Golden Pear and Kitchen Spice _ and a line of aromatherapy candles in time for the holiday season.

The Yankee Candle Company in Deerfield, Mass., is offering two new scents this holiday _ Christmas Wreath, which smells like freshly cut evergreen, and Christmas Cookie, with the scent of lightly-browned sugar cookies fresh from the oven. Those products are in addition to five others already in the line _ Christmas Eve, Home for the Holidays, Festival of Lights, Sugared Plums and Balsam Fir.

At stores like The Candle Shoppe in Columbus, Ohio, the days leading up to Christmas are busy with shoppers browsing through candles from 100 different companies that have been arranged according to color.

``We’re swamped,″ said co-owner Harold Slocum.

Yet once the holidays are over, there are even more aromas to sample.

Candle Corp. offers several that smell like foods _ Milk Chocolate, Honeydew, Grapefruit and Fig _ and scents of the outdoors like Rain, Apple Blossom and Magnolia.

``We are getting more ... that aren’t traditional,″ Powell said as he walked through the Candle Corp. plant, which produces 750,000 to 1 million candles per day. The entire factory smells overwhelmingly sweet from the hot scented wax, which is poured from giant vats into molds and glass jars.

In deciding which fragrances to concoct, companies look at marketing trends and the latest color schemes.

For instance, when sunflowers were popular in home decorating several years ago, Yankee Candle came out with a sunflower-smelling candle.

``We try to see how we can translate that into a fragrance,″ O’Brien said.

It made Lavender Fields after noticing lavender was a trendy color, and the rise of coffeehouses led to the Hazel Nut Coffee fragrance, he said.

But it is the changes in the habits of candle buyers that are helping companies the most.

About 42 percent of shoppers are now putting candles on their shopping lists, and people who burn candles on a regular basis buy an average of 38 candles a year, according to a survey commissioned by Candle Corp.

``It’s just not a casual purchase anymore,″ said Isidora Lagos, an Oshkosh, Wis.-based marketing director for Candle Corp. ``It’s like a fixture in their rooms ... they are replacing it regularly.″

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