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Harry Slatkin, who revolutionized the candle business, is marketing himself in a major way as a home fragrance personality.
The founder of Slatkin & Co., a high-end candle maker, Slatkin has headed up all of the Limited’s home fragrance business for the past two years and is now ready to unveil more than 500 candles he has reformulated for the White Barn Candle Co. division. This September, he will relaunch the repackaged brand under the Slatkin & Co. name. At that time, he also plans to launch a home fragrance diffuser collection and introduce a new partnership with the lighter company Zippo to light the candles, of course.
On Monday, the ever-tan Slatkin, dressed in a crisp white suit with a blue-and-white bias-cut striped shirt, sat down with WWD in his SoHo offices, talking in an animated manner at rapid speed in order to share all his news before he dashed out for a meeting with rock star Lenny Kravitz.
“I am the brand,” insisted Slatkin, repeating the phrase like a mantra when explaining why his name will now grace all candle packaging and why his face will appear on all advertising for home fragrance. Sitting in front of a wall-size copy of a portrait collage of himself by Italian artist Maurizio Galimberti — the original hangs in his new Manhattan town home — Slatkin discussed his plans to build the brand around none other than Harry Slatkin.
“There’s no home fragrance expert out there,” he said. “I made the home fragrance market what it is today. Eighteen years ago, there was only Rigaud and Canovas. I worked with Rose Marie Bravo at Saks and made candles couture. Now, everyone buys home fragrance.”
Beauty industry consultant Allan Mottus said he feels that Slatkin’s move to be more of a personality behind his brand makes a lot of sense.
“This is a very smart move because the trend in the beauty category has been for independent makeup artists and dermatologists to do their own lines because consumers want a personality behind the brand, and having the Zippo ad with Slatkin as the authority in addition to appearing on QVC falls into that category,” said Mottus. “Slatkin is like the Patricia Wexler of candles.”
A national print advertising campaign will roll out in a dozen magazines and billboards this fall, featuring Slatkin and his newly designed Zippo lighters. Available in silver, gold and red, and retailing for $10, the Zippos will be sold through Bath & Body Works. The ads will feature slogans like, “What All The Best Dressed Candles Are Wearing,” “Light Candles, Ignite Evenings,” and “No One Was Ever Seduced By Fluorescent Light.”
Since Bath & Body Works’ purchase of his brand two years ago, Slatkin said it was only a matter of time before he relaunched White Barn Candle Co. under the Slaktin & Co. brand name.
“I wanted to change the formulas and raise them to my standards,” said Slatkin. “My mission is to perfect home fragrance, in everything from the burn to the quality of the product.”
Although company executives wouldn’t comment, industry sources estimate that Limited Brands Inc.’s home fragrance business, which includes both Slatkin & Co. and White Barn Candle Co., was $400 million in 2005 and grew to $500 million in 2006.
Over the next three-to-five years, industry sources predict the White Barn Candle Co. home fragrance business will triple. According to Slatkin, his business climbed 18 percent last year and is on track to do the same this year.
Retailing from $10 to $28, the new Slatkin & Co. collection will begin rolling out in about 1,700 Bath & Body Works stores and 70 White Barn Candle Co. stores in September. By next spring, all home fragrances sold at the White Barn Candle Co. and Bath & Body Works will be sold under the Slatkin & Co. name. Although Bath & Body Works wouldn’t disclose whether the White Barn Candle Co. would be renaming its freestanding stores, Slatkin said there are plans for expansion. Currently, Slatkin & Co. products are sold in 2,000 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bath & Body Works and White Barn Candle Co.
Also for the first time this fall, Slatkin will appear on QVC to promote the newly repackaged Slatkin & Co. collection in two one-hour shows.
In an effort to reenergize the home fragrance diffuser market, Slatkin is launching Scentport, a plug-in scented oil diffuser inspired by the design of an iPod.
“After talking to our consumers, I saw how many people used a candle for special occasions, a certain mood or simple relaxation,” said Slatkin. “You can’t let candles burn all the time, so I wanted to make the scent available all day long.”
The diffuser oil blend is twice as powerful as what’s currently available on the market, he said, due to the high quality of the oil — the same grade he uses in his candles. To ensure that his blends don’t go unnoticed, Slatkin designed these diffusers to project the scents at nose level. Retailing for $7.50, the Scentport diffuser and scented oil refill will be available in eight fragrances, including vanilla, coconut and cinnamon & clove buds. The collection will be sold in all Bath & Body Works stores and online at bathandbodyworks.com, with an additional 24 fragrances slated for next spring.
As if that were not enough, Slatkin has also signed a deal with Disney to launch diffusers for children, like his seven-year-old twins, this fall. Featuring characters including Alice in Wonderland, Tinkerbell and Pirates of the Caribbean, they will retail for $15.