Staying Busy During the Slow Season
The warm summer weather has finally arrived and you’ve probably noticed that while candle sales haven’t completely stopped, they have slowed down considerably in comparison to those exciting colder months.
After a busy candle season, you might be tempted to take a break and just coast through the summer. While it’s okay to give yourself a well deserved holiday, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. These are crucial months that will give you a head start in preparation for the next busy season.
By using this quieter time wisely, it can help you come up with a proactive plan. It will also allow you to avoid panic buying, dealing with supply shortages and frantically waiting on delayed shipments for supplies you need to complete orders that should have been ready yesterday.
Here we will look at what you can be doing right now that will give you the opportunity to optimise your time when candle season gets hot again.
Evaluate Last Busy Season
With the previous busy season still fresh in your mind, this is the perfect time to look back on what worked and what didn’t so that you can make adjustments where they are necessary. Reviewing your sales numbers can be very useful for seeing what your successes and challenges were.
Here are some things that you should look at:
- What fragrances sold really well and what ones didn’t?
- What containers were most popular?
- What candle sizes and price points were customers most likely to purchase?
- What sales channel(s) were most successful?
- What requests did your customers make (i.e. new scents, new vessels, new products etc) that you should consider adding to your product line?
- Were there any supplies that you struggled to get when you needed them that you should consider securing sooner rather than later?
- Did you charge enough to get a good return on your investment?
The answers to these questions will help you in determining what you will continue doing the same and where you need to do some tweaking. There is a lot of valuable information you can gain from taking a thorough look at how the previous season went.
Keep an Eye on Your Competition
It’s not a bad idea to check out what your competitors are doing with their businesses. It is another great way to find new ideas and stay on top of trends. While you definitely don’t want to blatantly copy another candle maker’s products, there is nothing wrong with using ideas from industry leaders as inspiration for making adjustments to your own product line. Find interesting ways to incorporate some of the clever things that the competition is doing, but be sure to add a touch of your own personal flare to make it your own.
Research What is Trending
No one wants their products to become boring and outdated. That’s why it’s important to be proactive and stay on top of what is trending in the fragrance, home décor and fashion industries. This will allow you to keep your candle line on point and in vogue.
Scour popular fashion and home décor magazines and websites to see what the experts consider in style for the season. Visit boutiques for colour, vessel and label inspiration. Pinterest is always a great place to find new and exciting ideas.
With the candle industry continuing to grow at a fast rate, it’s beneficial to gather creative options from various resources and express it through innovative ways to help your candles stand out above the crowd.
Never Stop Learning
Now that you have mastered the art of candle making, it can be fun and exciting to learn and add different craft mediums to your repertoire. The slower months are a great time to explore new things that you can then use to make your products more unique so that they stand out amongst the many other candles on the market.
Some ideas that might inspire you include:
- Pottery to make your own candle vessels
- Silicone mould making to introduce new exclusive shapes to your free standing candle line
- Different kinds of air fresheners for those customers that love pretty scents but are not comfortable lighting candles
- Bath and body products - many of your candles fragrances can also be used in them as well
- If Candle making is your primary focus, learn how to work with a new type of wax that you’ve never tried before
If you are content with candle making and aren't interested in learning a new craft medium, there are other things that you can learn to help improve your business.
Here are a list of some valuable things a small business owner should get to know in order to be successful:
- Business Management
- Financial Management
- Time Management
As the great Martha Stewart once said, “Once you realise that you have identified a passion, invest in yourself. Figure out what you need to know, what kind of experience and expertise you need to develop to do the things that you feel in your heart you will enjoy and that will sustain you both mentally and economically.”
Update the Outdated
Now that you have a chance to sit down and breathe, the summer months are the perfect time to take a serious look at things like your website, product labels, packaging, product shots, marketing materials, product displays, etc and really assess where changes need to be made.
Over the years as you get busier, it can be easy to let things slide and leave things the same to save on time and money. However, if you want to continue to grow your business and stay relevant in the long term, you will need to streamline your assets from time to time. You want to make sure that as your brand evolves, your business as a whole evolves with it.
The last thing you want is for someone to hear about what great products you have only to visit your website and see old product shots that no longer represent your products. Regular maintenance of these things is worth the time and financial investment.
Planning For The Next Busy Season
Now that you have a clear picture of what went well for you and what didn’t last season, what is currently trending, and what new things you would like to test out, you need to use all of this information to come up with your plan for the upcoming busy season.
Start by setting new sales objectives that will challenge you to improve on last year’s numbers. Then come up with your step by step strategy on how you will achieve your new goals. Perhaps you are going to expand your product line to include new items that will attract a different clientele (i.e. adding a new men's line using only masculine scents and neutral tones).
Maybe you want to increase your online sales through new marketing efforts (i.e. through different forms of social media marketing and/or improving your website’s search engine optimization).
Conceivably, you may want to look into utilising new sales channels that you haven’t tried yet (i.e. contacting retail stores to find wholesale accounts, applying to sell your products through different online crafting marketplaces, signing up to be a vendor at new and larger craft shows, creating your own website shop if you haven’t already)
Create a Budget
Now that you have your goals figured out and you have a solid plan on how to reach those goals, you need to figure out your budget. You want to make sure that you include as much detail as possible in your budget to help avoid any unpleasant surprises that could come up.
Things that you will need to include in your budget:
- Supply costs (wax, wicks, fragrance, vessels, moulds, packaging, labels, etc)
- Shipping costs (including getting your supplies to you as well as delivering products to your customers)
- Website costs
- Rental costs
- POS system
- Vender’s Fees
Having all of your expenses figured out ahead of time will give you the chance to save or secure financing when necessary as well as come up with proper product pricing that will ensure your business is profitable.
Having an approximate idea of how much product you plan to make during the entire busy season will allow you to purchase your supplies in bulk. While buying in bulk is a large upfront investment, it will save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your supplier for information on purchasing your staple items in larger quantities. Many suppliers offer multi piece discounts and pallet pricing on wax and glassware. Often you can also purchase an entire case of wicks for substantial savings.
If there are scents that are hugely popular among your customers, it may make sense to buy an entire drum of the fragrance oil rather than constantly buying smaller bottles. Keep in mind that fragrance oil does have a shelf life, so you only want to get drums of fragrances that are fast movers and don’t make plans to keep the oil over multiple seasons.
Buying your supplies in larger quantities will not only save you money on the cost of the supplies themselves, but on shipping charges as well. With fuel prices skyrocketing, the fewer the orders you need to pay shipping on the better. Again, the shipping cost on, for example a pallet of wax, may seem very expensive. However, if you were to figure out what the shipping costs would be if you bought all of that wax in separate orders, you will find that there is considerable savings by buying it all at once.
In order to buy in bulk, you will need to have a large enough storage space. If you are planning to buy wax or fragrance oil in bulk, it is important that the space is temperature controlled due to the fact that some types can be negatively affected by humidity and drastic temperature changes. Temperature control is less important when storing things like wicks and vessels.
Not only will getting your main supplies in bulk ahead of time save you money, but it can also save you the headache of dealing with the ongoing unpredictable supply chains. For a candle maker, nothing is more frustrating than seeing that the supplies you need are out of stock or waiting on them to arrive when there are shipping delays. Save yourself the stress and buy bulk whenever possible.
Replenish Your Inventory
If you have all your supplies on hand now, don’t wait until the leaves are changing and the kids have headed back to school to start making your fall and winter candles. If you have the storage space, you might as well make your candles now and it will help take some of the pressure off when the busy season is in full swing.
By starting now, you will be able to get any necessary testing of new products out of the way early and there will be plenty of time for making adjustments if needed. Your candles will also have plenty of time to cure. This means that when your customers finally light them up this fall and winter, your candle's scent throw will be at its very best.
While it may be tempting to just enjoy a relaxing summer, there is so much that can be done now that would help alleviate some of the headaches that could come up when the next busy candle season arrives. By doing a little research, planning and preparation right now when business is in a down time, you’ll be well on your way to a stress free candle season in the months ahead. There is no such thing as being too organised and I promise that you won’t regret using this time wisely when the next busy season heats up! After all, they say that you get what you give. What you put into things is what you get out of them.