Blame it on the candle craze or the aromatherapy boom. Home fragrances are more popular than ever as people try anything to make their homes cozier, more beautiful and more fragrant.
Only a few years ago home fragrance prompted thoughts of lilacscented drawer sachets and gel based room deodorizers designed to mask unpleasant odors. But today’s home fragrances don’t merely rid rooms of the smells left by pets, smoke or food; instead they deliver a variety of warm, soothing scents designed to accentuate and beautify the home.
In the past decade, the home fragrance market has expanded to include scented candles, potpourri, scented lamp rings and jelly jars, all offered in a plethora of scents for largescale appeal. Companies such as Yankee Candle Company, Bath & Body Works and Blythe Industries have brought these types of fragrances to the consumer’s fingertips and there is barely a checkout counter in the country that does not have a display of scented items to tempt shoppers into making an impulse purchase.
Scented candles have registered the biggest sales gain. According to the Washington D.C.based National Candle Association (NCA), since the early 1990s, the candle industry has grown at an average rate of 10-15% and, in recent years, this growth has doubled. Retail sales of candles are expected to reach $2.3 billion in 1999.
"There has been just a tremendous growth," said NCA executive director Maryann McDermott. "New companies are getting into the market everyday—there are the larger firms and then there are the smaller ones with people starting out fromscratch." NCA research has shown that there are more than 200 commercial, religious and institutional manufacturers of candles in the U.S. and the typical company offers 1000-2000 varieties of candles, making candles a big business in the U.S. In fact, even investors seem bullish on the candle craze. Yankee Candle Co., a Massachusetts based company received a good response on Wall Street earlier this year when it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Candles have it all—they are visually beautiful and they create a beautiful, relaxing environment," said Annette Green, president of The Fragrance Foundation. "They are an easy way to get into fragrance."
The growing candle market has not hurt other segments of the home fragrance market. On the contrary, as more people enjoy candles in their home, they are buying ancillary products, such as potpourri and scented oils, to complement these candles. According to Kline & Company, Inc., an international business consulting firm based in Little Falls, NJ, candles, room sprays and sachets all registered double-digit sales increases in 1998 when sales of home fragrances as a whole increased 20%. "The popularity of aromatherapy has been a driving force for strong market growth," said Lenka G. Contreras, of Kline. "Sales for aromatherapy-based products have grown 30% on average each year over the past few years. Increased consumer interest in wellness and products pertaining to relieving or changing various moods and mental conditions are some of the reasons for strong growth." Furthermore, the healthy U.S. economy has allowed many consumers to invest in their homes.
"Products like candles, which are now available in a variety of shapes, in unique containers, and a vast spectrum of colors and fragrances, are an easy and inexpensive way to add ambiance to a home," remarked Ms. Contreras.
"People are entertaining and spending more time at home," said Peggy Harris, spokeswoman for Aromatique, an Arizona-based home fragrance company. "Decorating with fragrances and compatible accessories offers not only beauty to the home but a welcoming atmosphere. Your fragrance becomes your I.D."
Like other fragrances, home fragrances are popular for several reasons. The sense of smell is the most primitive and possibly the most sensitive of the five senses. Some aromatherapists refer to scent as "the window to the brain" and "the guardian to the memory." Consumers reportedly choose the scents for their homes based on several criteria. Some might select a scent that reminds them of their childhood to evoke feelings of comfort; others might choose scents to reflect the changing seasons, using apple-scented accessories in the fall and crisp citrus scents in the spring and summer. Of course, visual appeal also plays a factor and home fragrance products are often picked because of their ability to complement the consumer’s home décor.
The boom in decorative home fragrance products has done little to help sales of traditional mass market home fragrances such as room sprays and air fresheners. Sales in this category rose just 4% to $592.6 million and unit sales increased 2.9% for the year ended March 28, 1999, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago, IL. To help attract consumers and capitalize on the home fragrance frenzy, traditional home fragrance companies have added scented candles and other modern twists to their ranges. For instance, S.C. Johnson Wax this year added a collection of country style candles to its line of Glade home fragrance products.
Something for Everyone
Today’s home fragrance marketers are more creative and innovative than ever before, offering more scents, styles and accessories to appeal to a larger consumer base. "Before, people used to only have the choice of basic scents like lilac, cinnamon and apple," said Martha Bufford, vice president Natura Scent. "All of a sudden these fragrance started coming along and there was something for everybody. There is no home out there that you can’t find a fragrance for in today’s market."
Natura Scent, based in Herber Springs, AK, manufactures and markets candles, potpourri, room sprays and oils in floral, fruity and spicy fragrances as well as home fragrance accessories such as candle holders and potpourri trays. Ms. Bufford said the wide range of products available from Natura Scent was born out of consumer demand. "People tend to want to try all the gizmos and gadgets out there," she said. "The majority may go back to the same old stuff but they still want to see something new."
Although candles remain a large part of Crabtree & Evelyn’s home fragrance business, the Woodstock, CT-based specialty retailer enjoys presenting new twists in the category. "I think the home fragrance segment will really expand into new areas because people are paying such attention to detail today," said product development team member Susannah Jonas. "It’s like, if you have a pillow, why not have a scented pillow?"
This fall, the company will expand its Harvest collection to include Scented Botanicals potpourri, a striking blend of fruit, rinds, moss balls and miniature pumpkins, all scented with the harvest fragrance; Mineral potpourri, a medley of polished stones, minerals and glass and Environmental Oil, which can be used with a light bulb ring to impart the Harvest scent to rooms. "We really think the Harvest scent will be a perennial winner," Ms. Jonas said. "It really picks up an ambiance, whether it’s reminiscent of a walk in New England or of food cooking on the stove—it encompasses them all."
With home fragrance sales surging during the holidays, Crabtree & Evelyn plans to introduce several new products in time for the Christmas rush. These include a botanical potpourri created with pomegranates, orange slices and pine cones; a Glass Pomander filled with red rose petals, bay leaves and spiced cones; Noël Incense and a scented doorstop pillow and desk set.
Smell Isn’t Everything
Consumers not only look toward home fragrance products for a pleasant odor; many of these products must have the visual appeal to double as home decorations. Whether a consumer is looking for the country charm of the glass jars that encase every Yankee Candle or for the mystical appeal of Davies Gate’s Mediterranean collection, most homes have candles and potpourri as part of their permanent décor.
"People want things that are pleasant to look at," said Ellen Davies, founder of Davies Gate, a California-based personal care and home fragrance company. "A lit candle is very peaceful to look at and I think, in all of these products, we are trying to inspire an element of home decor. Companies are really varying the looks and colors so they can become home accents."
An interesting look was a big reason why Primal Element’s seaglass potpourri has proved so successful. "We have really received a wonderful response because not only does it smell so good, it’s wonderful to look at," said company president Faith Freeman. Unlike traditional potpourri, seaglass potpourri is made from tumbled, recycled glass and a porous ceramic wafer that emits a lasting fragrance. The potpourri is available in four scents: tropical floral, floriental, breezy seashore and sophisticated citrus. Mystic Light Candles, clear vessels filled with gel and recycled glass, complement the potpourri.
Pier I Imports considers five words when developing products for its national chain of stores—color, quality, selection, value and style. The company pays particular attention to these factors when selecting its large range of home fragrance products. "For home fragrances, we want to make sure there is a good assortment," said spokeswoman Joy Rich. "After all, a candle is more than just a candle. It’s really home accessory."
Beyond the Bath Craze
Just as the home fragrance market has exploded in the past few years, so has the bath and body craze. Because both of these segments depend so heavily on fragrance, many feel the two go hand-in-hand. This suspicion has been further supported by the tendency of many bath and body product manufacturers to cross over into home fragrance territory and vice versa.
According to Kline’s Ms. Contreras, specialty stores, including Bath & Body Works, have become the leading source for home fragrance sales. These types of stores offer a strong proliferation of stores, a constant newness of product offerings, trendsetting merchandise and an enjoyable shopping experience.
Intimate Brands is hoping to expand on the success of its Bath & Body Works stores, which offer one of the best known bath and body brands in the U.S., with its White Barn Candle Company stores. After selling White Barn Candle home fragrance products in Bath & Body Works stores for several years, Intimate Brands recently renovated more than 50 stores to market White Barn Candle products exclusively. Company executives said the brand, which includes candles, potpourris, scented jelly jars and room sprays in a variety of scents, could eventually become a $1 billion business.
"Candles and related home fragrance products have enormous potential for specialty brand retailing," said Intimate Brands spokeswoman Barb Jorgenson. "It is a big business opportunity. When you ask yourself, ‘What are people gravitating toward?’ The answer is home fragrance."
All of the manufacturers happi spoke to said one reason why so many people are gravitating toward home fragrances is they see them as a way to deal with added stress in their lives. "People’s time is so precious and their lives are so hectic," said Primal Elements’ Ms. Freeman. "Home has become kind of a cocoon. Whether it smells like a beautiful garden or like the seashore, it’s a pleasurable thing."
And, with technology enabling more and more people to work and shop right from their homes, a house is serving more roles and thus people are spending more time there. "People are spending more time in their homes and when they are there they want to enjoy themselves," said Pier I’s Ms. Hatch. "What better way to enjoy a few stolen moments than in a bubble bath with some candles?"
"We have always felt that the addition of a candle or other fragrance to the atmosphere adds so much to the bath and body ritual," said Jerilynn Hanson, vice president sales, marketing and creative services, Thymes Limited, one of the many bath and bodyoriented companies that have expanded into the home fragrance category. "It puts the experience into ‘a feeling special environment’ rather than just business as usual. A candle and candle light can really provide a wonderful, intimate lift at the end of a day or really anytime."
Home fragrance comprises approximately 25% of Thymes Ltd.’s business. In recent years, this share has grown as the company has offered alternative products such as scented stones and burning sticks, according to Ms. Hanson. Most recently, the company introduced a Figleaf and Cassis collection of bath and body products featuring a candle, potpourri and a home fragrance mist. Thymes will also include home fragrance in its new Repairitif’s line. A fragrant candle and wooden sachet balls infused with scents will be available in three formulas, Vitality, Harmony and Clarity. Each scent has a stated treatment purpose, a skin corrective goal and an aromatherapy claim.
The Chicken or the Egg?
Consumers are more aware of their total well being and they are aspiring to live healthier, fuller and longer lives. Just as regular home fragrances can create a certain ambience to the environment, home fragrances containing aromatherapeutic benefits can instill a desired aura in a room, according to industry experts.
Although it has existed for centuries, aromatherapy went mainstream only in the past few years with products boasting aromatherapeutic benefits appearing everywhere from the grocery store to the internet. Because many of these products come in the form of home fragrances, it is likely that the surge in home fragrance and the popularity of aromatherapy is related. What is unknown, however, is which one the consumer discovered first.
"The public is more educated about essential oils, boasting therapeutic properties—and that really helps the industry as a whole," said Gina Palandri, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Naturá Essentials. "At the same time more people are also interested in the nice scents essential oils can emit. The whole system really supports each other."
With so many companies producing aromatherapy products, Ms. Palandri cautioned that some of these products may not actually provide the same benefits a natural product can. "There are a lot of fakes out there," she said. "A lot of companies view it as a selling tool, but aromatherapy often becomes a misnomer for a scented product."
One area where aromatherapy does not differ from regular home fragrance is in innovation. To keep the consumer’s interest peaked, many companies are introducing new ways to disperse their scents throughout the home. One recent innovation is the Naturá Essentials’ aromatherapy fan diffuser, which is designed for use with pure essential oils. The diffuser fan releases the pure essential oils into the atmosphere and can fill a 500-1000 square foot area with a fragrance.
Making Scents for the Future
A booming category always heralds innovation and the popularity of candles and other means to scent the home keep home fragrance marketers searching for the next great scent or new product in the home fragrance category.
Crabtree & Evelyn has already experienced great success with its Cooks line of scented products based on kitchen smells. With scents such as mixed greens, rotisserie and herbs, the Cooks line brought scent for the kitchen into the kitchen for the first time, according to Ms. Jonas. "This brought a migration out of the family room and into the kitchen," she said. "And we will move into other areas, as well. Just you wait and see. Especially with headspace technology we can really capture scents we never could before."Some industry experts even feel environmental fragrance will expand beyond the reach of the home, with aromatherapy streaming through subway vents soothing commuters on their way home and fragrant sachets cheering up the workplace. "There will be olfactory consideration taken in every situation," said Ms. Green, of TFF. "The discovery that fragrance does affect mood will have people choosing their fragrances for more than just a pretty smell."