As our candle business has grown we are reaching more and more people that are new to what J&L/JÖL is about. Along with assorted consumer opinions and assumptions we all may have – yes, that includes us here – leads to some common questions and comments we receive. Here they are with some responses to those questions.
Q: Who makes your candles?
A: Every product we make is made in house, by me. Not all products are 100% made by me as our BIGBAR Soaps rely upon a base we acquire from a maker of such cosmetic bases that is located in the United Kingdom, same goes for our foaming base soaps. These bases make it easier for small makers like us to offer a higher quality product that can still be unique and hand made. Just not hand made from scratch. Otherwise, every other item we make is 100% made from scratch by me. Of the items we do not make, those would be items like our brushes, shaving mugs, combs and other accessory items; they are never presented as being made by J&L/JÖL.
Q: How do you come up with your scents? And other scent source related questions answered
A: In regards to JÖL scented products, the scents are sourced from assorted fragrance creators from around the USA. It is our insistence that all scent oils we use are 100% safe for YOU and the environment, not including personal sensitivities or allergies. We do not use “essential oils” for JÖL for HOME scents. This is for two distinct reasons: costs and quality of scent when burned in a candle. Many essential oils do not smell as you would expect when they are burned within a candle. Sometimes they can be very unpleasant. We also wish to insist upon all the products we make of a scent be consistent across all items. Whether that item is a candle, room spray, body spray or soap; if it carries a specific scent name then everything with that name must smell the same (barring any influence of core product ingredients may have on scent). Where there is a similarity in scent but not from the same exact source oil(s), the name of the scent will differ. For example, OXFORD and CEDAR LEATHER are both based upon a cedar leather scent, but the source for the OXFORD scent is different than the CEDAR LEATHER candle scent.
The process to select a scent comes from multiple influences and sources. Recommendations and suggestions from shoppers, scents we find in other products we see, suggestions of scents from our suppliers, and more. Sometimes the idea for a scent comes from a blend of what is familiar to me and what mood or theme I wish to achieve. All of what I do is an artistic expression where I get to use all sorts of sensory elements to create an experience. Ultimately that is what it is all about for me.
Q: How do you come up with the names of the scents?
A: This is a fun one for me. It is a bi-directional highway of influence. The rather generic naming of some scents simply based upon key scent notes. The rest come from wordplay associated with scent notes: CURRANT OCCURRENCE, for example, has a very forward black currant scent note. My favorite naming scheme is matching a scent to a favorite song that can summarize the theme of the scent. GREASY JUNGLE is our newest scent for candles. It’s name is not related to grease, or even a forested jungle. It comes from a poetic description of a city at night after it has rained. The source of the name is a song by The Tragically Hip from their album Day For Night. It is a very personal story being told about the experience of being at the wake of a friend that has passed. Like the song, the scent is highly layered and carries so much within it. Yet, the scent also gives that feel of tranquility that a city at night exhibits as contrast to it’s daytime form. A lot of thought goes into our scent naming, in the end it must match the scent. Whether the name is humorous, personal, has deeper meanings, or is purely pedestrian.
Not a question, a Comment we hear: Your candle prices are high.
Response: When compared to the candles you find at many common retailers, we are higher priced. Just like every mass produced product out there, it will be less expensive than any smaller craft maker or artisan. A huge reason why, is buying power. The more a single business can purchase in regards to supplies and materials the less expensive the supplies become. The more you can make at any one time also saves you money. The trade off comes when you look at the quality of ingredients smaller makers use and the effort they put into the finished product. Larger manufacturers save every cent they can to maximize profits. They are able to buy direct from the manufacturer for all their materials, where a business like JÖL needs to buy from resellers that also must make a profit to stay in business.
By buying from a small maker-seller has a direct impact on the success of genuine small businesses of all kinds. From the seller of the cans to the scent oils we use, there are at least 5 other businesses we work with that rely upon businesses like J&L to keep them going.
When you compare us to like craft makers and the artisan crowd you will find that we are far less expensive. Every item I make I analyze the marketplace to see its viability. I seek answers to my questions around who are my potential competitors locally and nationally. Then I find those that are using much the same parts and ingredients; selling similar sizes with like features, to see what they are charging for their products. This gives me guidance on where I can take my product. I seek that point where the ingredients used are of the highest quality and when used in the right quantities will lead to a well performing product in its respective category. Then I look into what is the safest price to make it available to sell. Taking into consideration packaging, labor and other costs that go beyond the actual ingredients. Using a formula to determine the profitability of the product, I then decide if it is viable to make the product. If I price it too high when compared to like products I risk not selling as much which will increase related costs. Similar risks are there if I price it too low. It may appear “cheap” and lead to low sales. I have encountered both of these scenarios before.
I do look at what a market can bear, but only as guidance. When it comes to candles, I know I could charge $40 or more, as that is commonly what you will find 16oz paint can candles selling for on Etsy and other marketplaces. In fact, just recently I looked into this again and found numerous makers of 8oz (1/2 pint) paint can candles selling for a low of $18 and a high of $45. I even saw 1/4 pint cans selling for $20. It is true, the smaller cans cost more than the larger cans, but not THAT much more.
When you factor in that we use max scent load in all our candles, $25 for a 1 pint can candle is quite a deal. And time has proven that this is an ideal price to bridge the gap between the appearance of luxury and the reality of mass retail in regards to candles. $25 is not that much to pay for a good candle, even better price for a great candle. I think my candles fall in between those two points – but I am also being modest.
Q: Do I get a discount for buying more?
A: No. Our pricing strategy has always been about maintaining trust and reliability with unilateral and consistent pricing across everything we make and sell. Having our products sold at a solid price allows us to offer a better overall price every day. To play around with sale prices, special discounts and promotions leads to a higher regular price all around. To be able to advertise and offer our candles at the common 25% to 35% Off prices you see, we would need to raise our prices to ensure we sustain the business and consistent revenue. The direct loss of revenue from the discounted price to the costs to advertise takes a chunk of money. By having a solidly lower price all the time supports consistent sales year round without the need for targeted promotions. In the future we may shift our position on this as the hopes would be that our higher overall sales will allow us to spend more money on advertising in a manner that will grow our customer base. Right now, our advertising is doing these festivals.
Demanding a discount from a small maker-seller or artisan is rude. This is a behavior that would not be tolerated inside any other retail environment. You would not insist on a discount at Walgreens, Target, Walmart, Kroger or any other retailer. True, they offer sale prices throughout the year on many items. Well, most of their sale prices are promotional prices negotiated with the manufacturer to drive sales of the product as well as drive revenue for the retailer. These sale prices are offset by the vendor’s involvement and higher prices on all the other goods in the store not on sale. We are the maker and we don’t have a wide variety of other products to mark up to cover like discounts.
We also prefer the idea that all our customers know what to expect in pricing from us at any given time. A returning customer should not pay more to buy from us again just because they wished to replenish outside of a sale period. As consumers, we tend to only purchase when there is a real need, not just because it is on sale. Although we do encourage a level of “stocking up”, this serves two purposes. First, it stimulates making sure you get enough to serve your needs for a longer period which in turn leads to the second purpose – saving money on shipping. We love recurring sales, but we also want you to not have to pay so much for shipping as shipping charges are often a deterrent to shopping on line.