What is the Best Mode of Candle Distribution? 
Updated June 2019
If you read our blog Starting a Candle Business, you know we touched a bit on this subject of candle distribution, but with so many options, we think it’s worth a bit more detail.
For now, let’s just focus on a few of the most common options:
Local Farmers Markets
This is a fantastic way to start! Not only is it usually a year round, ongoing way to sell and get established, but you get to be face to face with your customers. This allows you to get necessary feedback instantly, and be up close and personal with your customers! Have conversations with them and get to know what you are doing right and wrong.
Check your area to find out which farmers markets allow crafters and what the requirements are. Costs will vary based on your geographical location and the size of the market. Some occur weekly, others monthly, and some larger ones may only happen once a year!
Keep in mind you may need a resale permit which you can register for on your individual state’s “.gov” website. Just Google “Get a Business License in (Your State)” and you should find your state’s .gov site within the first few results. Fees and turnaround time to receive the license vary from state to state, but they typically have a phone number you can call or FAQ’s online so you can easily find this information. Also, be sure to check if the market you’d like to sell at has any insurance requirements.
How will you accept payment? Cash only is often typical at farmers markets, but you can miss out on a lot of sales if you don’t accept credit. Square reader is a very simple processing system, plus the chip itself is free! Who doesn’t love that? You can even plug it into a phone or iPad. The fees are reasonable (about 3% per transaction) and you get your money in 1 to 2 days.
You’ll also want to inquire if you need to provide your own table, if you’ll get to keep the same space each time (for recurring markets), and of course, what the associated cost is to participate.
Make sure to set up an attractive booth – keeping it simple and clean is usually the best way to go. Let the focus be your product. Have a nice sign made so people can find you and know what you are selling just by quick glance. Have testers available and easily accessible for people to smell.
Craft fairs are also year round, but the holiday season brings so many more opportunities for candle distribution. Some of the best craft fairs are juried, which means they will review your product to see if they feel you are up to the standards of their show. Some are small and easy to get into.
Holiday craft fairs typically occur in mid-November to early December… So make sure you are ready and stocked up with inventory.
Just like farmers markets there is a lot to consider: cost, booth requirements, signage, how much inventory you will need, resale permit, insurance or other local business license, how you will accept payment, etc.
Craft fairs have the same benefits as farmers’ markets in that you get to be up close and personal with your customers.
Use this time to get feedback from your customers. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they are looking for something you don’t currently make. There’s an opportunity for custom work… which you can charge more for.
It’s also a great way to see what others are doing and how it’s working for them. One of the best is Renegade Craft Fair and another favorite is Artists & Fleas. Of course, there are many smaller local craft fairs. Check out your city or town website or Chamber of Commerce for listings and information.
Pop-up shops are popular these days for candle distribution and can be very busy during the holidays! Not unlike setting up for a craft fair and also having a lot of similar benefits and requirements. A pop-up shop is basically like having a temporary shop – a lot of big metropolitan cities have some great pop up shop venues. Give a Google search for pop-up shops and you’ll find all sorts of interesting things.
We love this Shopify article on successful pop-up shops, plus it’s only a 7 minute read: Pop-Up Shop Ideas: Lessons From 10 Successful Shops to Help You Get Started.
Pop-up shops will most likely have a bigger time commitment involved than farmers markets and craft fairs as they can be open 7 days a week during normal business hours. While some have more flexibility, keep in mind you may need to be present there for most of the week or hire someone to manage your shop. However, this is not always the case and depending on your venue, the pop-up shop may only last a weekend or a week at a time.
A definite favorite for candle distribution. Who doesn’t love being part of a community where there are already 30 million buyers who spent $2.8 billion in 2017? Just keep in mind, there are also a lot of sellers so you better make sure you have outstanding photos and a well laid out page.
One of our favorite things about Etsy (besides being able to reach millions of customers) is that they don’t charge a subscription fee for using their platform if you’re utilizing their basic plan. The only fee you pay is $0.20 USD per listing (which auto-renews every 4 months if your item doesn’t sell). When your item sells, there is also a 5% transaction fee deducted from your earnings, which is less than many other third party seller sites like Amazon.
Setting up an Etsy shop is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to provide your item name, item description, those outstanding photos we mentioned above, and product specs like weight and size so Etsy can determine the correct shipping costs for your item.
You can also add “tags” (product descriptors) to help identify your product so that when shoppers use the search feature on Etsy, your product will populate in their results. The more relevant tags you add, the better!
Another option to consider that helps boost your candle distribution strategy is using promoted ads and campaigns on Etsy’s platform to increase the number of eyes on your product. Learn more about how their promoted ads work here.
Etsy also has a fabulous Seller Handbook full of resources on how to successfully sell on their site! If you do choose to use Etsy for your candle distribution, we definitely suggest reading up on their best practices. For more information, go here: Sell on Etsy.
Having your own website is a fantastic idea, though it can be a LOT of work! Trust us, we know… have you seen this website??
Whether you choose to have someone build your website for you, or use a template on one of the platforms we listed above, you’re going to need:
- Creative names for each of your products
- Unique SKUs for each product
- Product photography for each product
- Pricing for each product
- A way to manage inventory
- A plan to handle fulfillment and shipping; USPS, FedEx, and UPS are the most common options.
- Platform to manage customer service… Will you respond inquiries by email, phone, live chat, or all three?
So much goes into the building of a website. Plan for it to take longer than you expect! In the end, having your own website does add a great amount of credibility to your business and will certainly help to establish your brand. It also is helpful when promoting your product to have an easy place to send potential customers to shop your products (where they aren’t distracted by tons of other choices…sorry Etsy).
Considering Amazon was responsible for 49% of all e-commerce sales in 2019 (TechChrunch), you definitely want to think about using this as a channel for your candle distribution!
There are many different methodologies for how to grow your Amazon business, but here is a simple and easy to understand blog post explaining the basics from the Online Selling Experiment.
Amazon charges a base fee of $39.99/month to sell on their platform plus fees for each sale you make. For candles, the fee is 15% of your sales.
Plus you’ll want to consider if you want to offer Prime shipping and have your orders fulfilled by Amazon. If so, they’ll need inventory of your items at multiple warehouses. If you remain a third party seller on Amazon and fulfill and ship orders yourself, Amazon will still expect you to ship your items within 1 to 2 days so be sure you can fulfill your orders in a timely matter.
We never said it was easy, but it can definitely be worth it! We’ll leave the rest to them to explain how it works: Sell on Amazon.
Exactly as it sounds, throw a little party with some friends and sell them some candles. Or have a friend host a party for you… be creative and have fun!
If your friends or family need a little incentive to come to your home party, we’ve got two words for you: Free. Food. Sounds silly, but it works. There aren’t many places we wouldn’t go for some free treats!
Another option to incentivize attendance is to host a giveaway at your party or give a free tea light sample pack to everyone who attends.
If a friend is hosting a party for you, you have the opportunity to expand your candle distribution network by reaching customers outside your normal social circle. Assuming you don’t have all the same friends, this can be a great way to grow your business.
Wholesale to Retailers
While wholesale can be another great option to expand brand awareness. This method of candle distribution presents a completely different set of considerations!
If you are going to try a candle distribution route to wholesale to stores you must have a line sheet. Know how to approach buyers, and have a basic understanding of retail.
Thinking of tying a big pretty bow on top of that box? That doesn’t stack well on a retail shelf. Do all of your boxes look the same at first glance even though there are 8 different fragrances? That’s a nightmare in a retail environment. How about that pretty wax seal? Disaster when customers open up boxes to smell what’s inside.
Wholesale pricing is typically 50% off your retail price. Stores are also going to want testers and they are going to want them for 50% off of the wholesale price. While your profit margin may be smaller when selling wholesale, the intangible benefit of reaching many new potential customers can be large and pay out big time.
Adding wholesale to your candle distribution plan will also add in a type of account management that you won’t typically experience with e-commerce or direct customers. Store managers and buyers will want to speak with you regularly, get feedback on what is popular and selling well, and ask questions about the products. You will want to be sure to maintain good relationships with the buyers so that their store will continue to carry your line!
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS…
Make sure you have excellent photos of your product and that means really excellent photos. With so much fantastically, amazingly, great content out there, you can’t afford to have your photos be anything less than superb!
For less than $40 you can get a mini photo studio for a professional looking set up… and you can use the camera on your phone! This all-in-one kit from Amazon works very well for this purpose.
Honestly, the importance of excellent photos cannot be stressed enough; people are visual and want to click on a good looking, clean product. So make sure you enable yourself to provide that for them.
Differentiating yourself is key. Find your niche and rule it!
Now go get selling and make some bucks!