3 reasons why candles are so cheap at big box stores and how to be a conscious consumer this candle season.
1- Candles are loss leaders.
Big box companies can afford to lose money when they sell inexpensive candles because you're probably going to buy something else with a great margin while you're there.
This is not indicative of what a candle costs to make and, from a consumer psychology perspective, it gives consumers the idea that candles should not cost much, so when you see a $34 candle in our shop you might think "that's really overpriced" so you keep buying the cheap candles forever because you don't know any better. Big candle brands are constantly lowering their prices hoping to sell a LOT of candles for very little profit to keep pushing indie and bespoke brands out of the market, but we're not going anywhere.
2- Big box store candles are mass produced.
Cheap candles are made in a factory with ingredients that are bad for you AND the environment. They're made with paraffin wax, fragrances that have been tested on animals, cotton wicks with lead in them, etc. Unfortunately, the candle world suffers from a lack of transparency when it comes to disclosing ingredients and are allowed to get away with some things that are super sketchy (like a candle can be marketed as a "soy wax blend" candle but be made of 99% paraffin wax and 1% soy but it's sold as a more natural product because there has been a shift from paraffin wax products as consumers seek out more natural, green, clean, and organic products.
3- Factory workers are paid as little as possible and working conditions are awful.
That cheap candle was probably made by a kid in Vietnam or China. Even candles made in the US have questionable working conditions (18 people died in a tornado in a candle factory in Kentucky in December 2021).
Companies value profits over people. Even some indie brands fail to pay their staff living wages. We are not hiring a team until we can afford to pay a fair wage and offer benefits to full-time staff. Until then, we are a team of two that may occasionally outsource blocks of time to contractors.
So! What can you do to be a conscious consumer this candle season?
Buy less. Invest in a couple of really nice candles. Burn them mindfully. You do not need 15 candles from the Bath and Body Works sale, I promise.
Do your homework. Know your maker. Know your ingredients. Seek out brands that are transparent with their pricing and aren't afraid to tell you exactly what ingredients go into their candles.
Support small brands that share your values. They can share your values with ingredients, working conditions, charitable contributions, pricing transparency, political views, etc.
If a candle brand doesn't talk about their values, you can be pretty sure they don't have any (besides making as much money as possible).
Warm hugs from me to you this candle season. If you ever have questions about our ingredients, values, charitable contributions, working conditions, or something else entirely, you can always send me a message. I'm proud to share this information because so few brands and makers are willing to do so.