Boom in sales of candles, home scents make 2020 the best-smelling year

During the circuit breaker, Ms Celeste Ho decided to turn her best-selling resin earrings into candles.

The 28-year-old behind accessories brand Another Kynd, which she started last November, noticed that her intricate earrings - containing dried flowers and sealed with resin - were moving a little slower than usual.

"People weren't buying jewellery during Covid-19 because they weren't heading out," says the full-time art director.

"We decided to create something they could actually use at home - and also target an audience which doesn't buy jewellery."

She launched A-kyndle with her boyfriend, sales engineer Jasper Tan, 28, in June, releasing weekly batches of 50 handmade candles.

The candles have a resin and flower base that is fully dried, before soy wax is poured on top.

The couple, who both have day jobs, spend their weekends laying the resin and pouring candles in Ms Ho's living room.

They were turning in a profit by the third month.

Lately, they have been receiving more inquiries from beauty and lifestyle brands to do "self-care collabs", says Ms Ho, adding that she has seen many small candle brands like hers pop up in this time.

The shift towards work from home this year has been good for candles and home scents businesses as consumers try to make their living environments more comfortable.

A report from technology research and advisory company Technavio showed that the global scented candles market was valued at US$5.4 billion (S$7.3 billion) last year, and is expected to grow to US$7.22 billion by 2024.

While statistics on the home fragrance market in Singapore are lacking, a check with local and international candle brands found that demand here has been steadily growing.

Home-grown Hush Candle saw a "sharp increase in business" during the pandemic, despite losses from its main revenue stream of pop-ups, client events and workshops, says co-founder Nicole Su.

"When Covid-19 started, our e-commerce platform saw a seven-fold increase in sales from April to June, as compared to the same period in the previous year."

Likewise, Mr Jason Lee of local fragrance brand Six says demand for his home scenting range has "soared exponentially".

The range includes reed diffusers, nebulisers and pure essential oils, with the nebulisers being his bestsellers.

"Now with work-from-home and safe distancing, people find it more important to scent up spaces rather than themselves," says Mr Lee.

He recently launched a Japanese yuzu-themed collection in support of the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Ten dollars from each product sold - an EDT perfume ($66 to $125), pillow mist ($28), nebuliser set ($98) and pure yuzu essential oil ($38 to $158) - will be donated to the association.

"We have had customers tell us that our scents helped to soothe everyone's mood at home, especially when people are spending more time together at home now," he adds.

Global brands, too, report similar demand, with some like Jo Malone London, Aesop and Loewe adding candles to their offerings with uncannily good timing.

Jo Malone London's diffusers and candles have been doing "super well" this year, with diffusers in its signature scent English Pear and Freesia being its best-seller during the circuit breaker, said a local representative of the brand.

The British perfume brand launched a candle collection created specially for the home in October.

For Australian brand Aesop, which debuted its candles in October, the Singapore market showed "double-digit growth in sales for the Home Care category in the first to third quarter, versus last year in the same period", said Dr Kate Forbes, Aesop's global director of innovation.

The trio of Aromatique Candles ($155 each) developed in partnership with French perfumer Barnabe Fillion was planned in response to "customers asking us to develop scented candles for some time", she adds.

Mr Fillion says: "Like everyone else over the last few months, I've been paying closer attention to my indoor environment, and I've noticed how we rediscovered the pleasure found in everyday rituals.

"People are spending more time in their homes and are perhaps becoming more attuned to their surroundings, looking for ways to elevate everyday living. Home scents are a way to do that, just like cooking or sourcing better products."

Public relations director Wendy Yeow finds herself burning essential oils more often this year - from a few times a week to every day.

"Since we are all home more, I burn more anti-mosquito oils like lemongrass to prevent dengue fever," says Ms Yeow, 42, who also favours "immunity boosting" essential oils like clove, mint, and lemon.

She also bought candles as gifts for friends during the circuit breaker.

Hush Candle fan Amy Briggs, 28, made six orders from the brand this year, to sustain her daily candle-burning.

"I've been burning so many more candles than normal this year - especially during the circuit breaker when my husband and I were home all day," says the parent liaison officer of a pre-school.

"There's something so comforting about the glow of a candle at night that makes me feel relaxed."

A-kyndle's Ms Ho and Mr Tan have been busy fulfilling candle orders. They release a new batch every Wednesday at 8pm and the candles, priced at $33.90 each, often sell out by 11pm.

"When you stay at home more, you need to make the house smell nice so that your mental space will be clearer," Ms Ho says.

"If the house smells good, naturally your mood will be better too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2020, with the headline 'Burning desire'. Print Edition | Subscribe