Hebridean candle firm looks to ignite expansion

The firm's director Jamie McGowan notes its plans to target more growth overseas, particularly in the US. Picture: Paul McGinley.
The firm's director Jamie McGowan notes its plans to target more growth overseas, particularly in the US. Picture: Paul McGinley.
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A candle and fragrance company based in the Outer Hebrides is looking to create five further jobs, launch new products and boost overseas trade after a year of “significant” growth in which it considerably boosted its production capability.

Tarbert-based Essence of Harris is also expecting to see its Christmas sales increase by up to 40 per cent on last year due to the ongoing expansion of its UK-based retail network, coupled with the growing strength of its brand both at home and abroad.

Over the last 12 months, the company has more than doubled the number of UK retail outlets it supplies to 107. And since last Christmas, Essence of Harris has added five staff, bringing its total headcount to 14.

The business has also launched two new collections of hand-poured candles and reed diffusers along with a new range of accessories made using its own Essence of Harris tartan. Overall turnover is in the mid-six-figure range and has grown by 35 per cent this financial year already.

In a bid to grow its export sales – which currently comprise 15 per cent of the business’ annual turnover – Essence of Harris has recently entered into discussions with potential new partners in France and the Netherlands, as well as representatives from global airport retail chain World Duty Free.

The firm currently exports to retailers in the US, Germany and Thailand, as well as selling to customers around the world through its website.

To help identify further export opportunities, the business has been working with the Bank of Scotland through its International Trade Portal, which offers details of potential overseas markets and key market information.

The lender also provided a five-figure overdraft facility that supported the renovation of and move in May into a vacant 500 square metre factory unit in Tarbert, owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The site was converted into a high-quality production facility and headquarters and boosted the company’s production capacity by 60 per cent.

The lender also helped the firm develop a growth plan to help it secure a five-figure grant from HIE to further support the factory’s renovations.

Jamie McGowan, director of Essence of Harris, said: “The Christmas season is a big one for our business… festive sales usually make up more than a quarter of our annual turnover.

“We’re expecting this year’s sales to be particularly strong, thanks to our growing customer base in the UK and beyond, coupled with the new product lines we have developed.”

And he said that on the back of its new premises, it is to release further new products, including liquid hand soaps. “Looking beyond the Christmas period, we’re hoping to open our third UK store in Aberdeen Airport this April and we’ll be continuing to target more growth overseas, particularly in the US market. Creating career opportunities for young people here in Scotland is also a big part of what we aim to do, and over the next year we’re hoping to create five new roles in our team.”

Lindsay MacLeod, relationship manager, Bank of Scotland, said: “Essence of Harris has worked hard to make the most of every opportunity for growth presented to them, both here in the UK, and overseas.

“This Christmas is Essence of Harris’ first in its new factory in Tarbert, and its increased space has not only enabled it to expand its product range, but will also help it better handle periods of increased demand.”