Spending on Scent: The Appeal of Costly Candles

June 12, 2024

Although some consumers are becoming wary of the rising cost of fast food, there’s one product that a growing number of people are willing to splash extra cash on: candles. Over the last year, Americans have spent $222 million on candles at upscale department stores and beauty retailers as well as online outlets. Sales of candles that cost more than $75 have increased by 25 percent, representing a small but expanding segment of the market. For instance, the singer Kacey Musgraves recently launched a candle line with standard sizes starting at $56 while the high-end hotel chain Ritz-Carlton sells a $430 fig tree candle through its website.

According to experts, pricey products like these hold a unique branding power that appeals to consumers who want to experience a little luxury without spending too much money. After all, most people can’t afford a $1,250 silk shirt from the fashion label Loewe, but they may be willing to spend $120 on a candle. “Certainly you can get cheaper candles, but it’s about more than a candle,” said consumer behavior analyst Katie Thomas. “It’s about an essence or a vibe somebody is trying to put out there.” 

Other consumers simply want to buy a better smelling candle, and that costs money. Lyndsey Gibson, vice president at the candle making supplier CandleScience, said “most people are fragrance-first. That’s the thing that they’re the most concerned about. And honestly, that’s the thing that can vary widely in price.” Luxury candlemakers frequently source their scents from “fragrance houses” that combine a variety of expensive components like essential oils, carrier oils, and synthetics. “You can get an oil that’s $2 a pound and you can get an oil that’s $80 a pound,” said Anthony Carro, owner of the Los Angeles store Candle Delirium. “That changes a candle from $10 to $60, literally, because you’re putting an ounce, an ounce and a half, two ounces in there.”


  1. What do you think is the branding appeal of expensive candles from high-end retailers and celebrity labels?
  2. How does scent factor into the cost of expensive candles? 

Source: Rachel Kurzius, “How Candles Got So Expensive,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2024.