Gifts Today magazine

Cornish candle makers enjoy the scent of success

A scented candle business in North Cornwall is enjoying a surge in online orders and preparing to extend its factory in anticipation of record Christmas sales

St Eval Candle Company started out making church candles 20 years ago and, with an annual turnover of £1.6 million, still makes all of its products using traditional techniques at its original farm premises.

Following the launch of a new website in 2012, made possible by an ERDF Convergence BIG grant worth £20,510, the business transformed its marketing strategy.

To support its new approach, St Eval Candle Company benefited from Oxford Innovation’s Coaching for High Growth programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Working with coach Gill Hall, a chartered marketer with over 20 years’ experience, the business has developed much more targeted marketing methods through its new website. Last year, online retail sales quadrupled and trade orders more than doubled as a result.

The coaching sessions focused on marketing and the business adopted a more targeted, focused approach. Email marketing is now segmented, so customers receive more relevant offers and the success of each campaign, customer email or online offer is evaluated to help inform future activity.

The business employs up to 20 staff, with a seasonal peak in the autumn in preparation for Christmas, which means the pack and dispatch area of the factory becomes particularly busy. With turnover growing by ten per cent year on year, demand is such that the business is outgrowing its factory and is about to start work on a 280 metre extension.

The company has developed over 30 scents, many of which are inspired by its rural location, which overlooks Cornwall’s rugged north coast. ‘Sea Salt’ is one of its best-sellers, while ‘Camomile Lawn’ was inspired by the wild fresh camomile growing on the company’s farm. As well as high quality, natural scents, the company is known for its earthy designs, with candles being presented in rustic stands and pots.

In autumn 2013, the business extended its offer beyond candles and candle accessories for the first time by adding scented reed diffusers to its product range. The business is working on a series of innovative new products, currently under wraps but due to be released in time for Christmas shoppers.

The company now exports to Japan and US, but customers are mainly in the UK with John Lewis and 1,000 boutiques and high-end garden centres stocking St Eval products.

With sustainability at its heart, the business works with a number of local suppliers including graphic designers from Penryn company Eight Wire and Truro-based company DMG Print.

Rebekah Fice-Thomson of St Eval Candle Company said: “Working with our Oxford Innovation coach, we have developed a much more focused approach to marketing. The increase in sales has been even better than we’d hoped. Our coach has been a fantastic support and we have found Oxford Innovation to be a great resource to tap into.”

Oxford Innovation coach Gill Hall said: “When I started working with St Eval Candle Company we were looking at growing their online sales by ten per cent – they have gone way beyond that with retail sales quadrupling over the last year. With its roots firmly in Cornwall, which provides inspiration for its high quality artisan products, the business is continuing to innovate and has the potential to capture even more of the UK market.”

For more information about Oxford Innovation and the Coaching for High Growth programme, which can deliver up to 30 days of fully funded business coaching, visit www.growcornwall.co.uk.


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