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Candles earn status as department staple.

NEW YORK -- Candles have become an important and versatile part of the social expressions business for mass retailers. The products play a number of roles in the category, from seasonal accents to mood enhancers. Consumers buy them as gifts for friends or loved ones, or to brighten their own homes.

The trend has caught the attention of retailers and suppliers alike. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, has boosted its candle assortment this year with both branded and private label products, as part of an upgrade of its home goods presentation. Target Corp. and Kmart Corp. are also players in the category.

HCC Brands director of marketing Annett Davidson believes treating candles as home decor items and displaying them with soft goods makes a lot of sense.

"A lot of people want candles in colors that match their towels or other soft goods," she says. "So merchandising candles with soft goods can really boost sales."

Candles also make emotional connections that make them a good fit in the social expressions department, especially for drug stores and other retailers that do not carry soft home goods.

Fragrances can be evocative. Davidson notes that candles that give off the scent of baked goods are especially popular right now.

Looks also matter. "Anything that's pretty, or that has extra detail or embellishment, is doing well right now because it offers added value," she says.

What the candle is made of has also become a factor for consumers, notes Davidson. HCC Brands' soy candles continue to be the company's hottest products, because they burn longer and cleaner than other candles. The company is also having good luck with its Accents line of refillable oil lamps, which are clean burning and refillable.

American Greetings Corp. is a big player in the mass retail candle business as well and provides another link between candles and social expressions. And, as is the case with greeting cards, candle sales tend to spike upward during certain seasons. With that in mind, American Greetings' GuildHouse unit is introducing a range of summer, fall and Christmas candles.

GuildHouse has also capitalized on the nostalgia trend with candles that duplicate smells from food popular with baby boomers. Apple turnover is one of the comfort food aromas featured in the company's Sweet Temptations line, for example.

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Title Annotation:Merchandising
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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