It’s a special week for women. This Sunday marks Mother’s Day, where we celebrate our wonderful Mums and show them how much we appreciate everything they do for us.
But there’s another date in the calendar this week; Thursday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, where we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women over generations.
Throughout its long history, Shearer Candles has always been family run. When the last of the Shearers retired in 1972 the present owners, the Barnet family, took over and is now in its third generation. Rosey Barnet and her two daughters, Stephanie and Victoria are now at the helm alongside husband and father, Ian Barnet, our Managing Director. Having trained as a textile designer, Rosey has helped steer Shearer Candles in a new direction over the years, focusing on the high-end lifestyle candles that now accounts for 80 per cent of sales. Stephanie now controls Product Development and Marketing, whilst Victoria manages the retail side of the business, with our permanent and pop-up stores across Glasgow.
Given the two special dates in the diary this week, we thought what a great opportunity to get to know our mother daughter trio a little better and hear what they have to say about working in the candle industry.
So, what’s a typical day like for you?
Victoria: I manage our stores across Glasgow that not only sell Shearer Candles but other home accessories, so it really depends where I’m working for the day. One day I can be serving customers in our busy Byres Road shop, the next I’m stock taking in the warehouse, or deciding what home accessories we should sell in store! I love the variety!
Rosey: I agree; it really can be a whole variety of different things, which is what I’ve always loved! Because we’re designing and manufacturing, it’s all about sourcing materials, ordering, talking to suppliers, looking at trends, and then working with graphic designers, choosing patterns and colours… It’s never dull and that’s the beauty of it.
Stephanie: Being heavily involved in product development, I am often dealing with China where the best time to do business is between 3am and 6am our time, so I’m usually emailing our contacts in the far east before I’m even up and ready to go to work! Having a young daughter who loves to get up early actually helps.
My role also involves managing a small team of creative people (all women!) who are fabulous at what they do – that really helps! Every day is different at Shearer Candles; one day I’ll be developing our website, the next I’ll be sourcing vessels for a new candle or creating fragrances, today I’ve been styling a photo shoot! If it’s a creative project, I’m usually involved!
What’s your favourite part of your role?
Victoria: I love the buying process for our stores across Glasgow. I get to research current interior design trends, go to trade exhibitions across the country and meet new companies with innovative and unique products. Then it’s fascinating to see what sells well across our stores in Glasgow and hear our customer’s feedback.
Rosey: It’s got to be selecting a successful fragrance and seeing our customers enjoy it! I love hearing the feedback on social media!
So Victoria and Stephanie, did you always want to work in the family business?
Victoria: I didn’t have a choice! They had me in here when I was six! [laughs]
Stephanie: We loved working in the factory to earn pocket money when we were teenagers but I never thought of it as a career. It wasn’t until I went to university where I studied Marketing and Business Law that I thought wow, I have an amazing opportunity to apply what I have learned into practice in my very own family business. It also helps that I have creative flair (inherited from my mother) – perfect for an industry which is ever moving into the world of fashion and interior design.
Does working in a family business have any downsides?
Stephanie: Now that would be telling! But honestly, sometimes it’s difficult to remain professional with your family – but we really try and manage most of the time! I also think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform and the hours that we work – we do not take enough holidays!
Rosey: I agree, we have our moments, but it’s important to remain professional at work. We’ve lasted this long so we must be doing something right!
What’s your proudest moment to date?
Victoria: Opening store number five! There’s so much preparation and hard work that goes into launching a new store, but to see customers coming through the door once you’re open is such a buzz! Watch this space for the next one!
Stephanie: For me it’s seeing our latest collection, HOME, come to fruition. It will officially launch in April and this will be the first time I have been completely responsible for a collection from concept to launch.
Rosey: When I look back now at how far we’ve come as a business that makes me very proud. During my time at Shearer Candles, we’ve moved from producing a utility product to a luxury, lifestyle product.
But personally, seeing both my daughters come into the business, working in the same areas that I enjoyed myself, and seeing them take the business to new levels; that’s pretty special.
How has the industry changed over your time here?
Rosey: Oh wow, in 30 years? The most dramatic difference is that we’ve changed from a utility product to a lifestyle product. So our audience has changed. Back then, we were really selling to supermarkets and wholesalers and now, we’re selling to all sorts of businesses and directly to consumers, both face to face and of course over the internet.
I also remember when I first started in the business, I was surrounded by men, both at Shearer and when I visited trade shows. It’s quite a dramatic change to walk around our business today; there are women involved at every stage of the journey.
The way we make candles basically hasn’t changed, but now there’s more automation which allows us to produce on a bigger scale. Sourcing materials from overseas and export overseas has revolutionised our business and the industry as a whole!
Stephanie: I have worked in the business since 2006. I definitely see more lifestyle, fashion and interior influences. The internet; especially social media, has also changed how people advertise, shop and demonstrate their brand appreciation.
There is also a lot more competition than there ever has been and that is why we are developing our private label business. Sometimes we cannot compete with high street brands & supermarkets in terms of MOQs and margin – their distribution is so extensive. Therefore we offer to make candles and diffusers for the competition. Win, win.
What is the most common misconception about the candle industry?
Stephanie: That a drop of wax, a bit of wick, some fragrance and colour equals the perfect, safe performing candle! There is an extensive amount of work that goes into the development and design of each candle – every candle has its own recipe and must adhere to strict legislation and health and safety guidelines. Sometimes it can take 6 months to develop a candle.
Victoria: And people forget fragrance all comes down to personal taste; one customer will love Amber Noir, and someone else would never buy it, so having variety is so important to a company like us.
If you could change one thing about the candle industry, what would it be?
Victoria: That Yankee didn’t exist! [laughs]
Rosey: [Laughs] That’s a good one! If you’d asked me that question some time ago it would have been relatively easy to answer. There was a time when the market was flooded by cheap imports from China and Eastern Europe, and consumers were not as “candle savvy” as they are now. People now know what a good quality candle looks like. But still, less cheap imports!
Rosey, what advice would you give to Stephanie and Victoria about working in the candle industry?
Rosey: Always be open to change, stay on top of trends and move with the market, regardless of your personal taste.
Stephanie do you think your daughter Ivy will be next at Shearer helm?
Stephanie: It’s too early to tell! But never say never!
Are your favourite scents similar?
Stephanie: I love Cerise, and all of the new HOME collection fragrances which are soft and delicate.
Victoria: I like Cerise too. But also Smoked Diamonds and Cranberry & Ginger, which pack a bit more of a punch!
Rosey: Well it has to be Amber Noir for me! I also like Neroli and Red Red Rose.
And finally, which of our candles would you recommend as Mother’s Day gifts?
Rosey: Well, at this time of year, I like to have sunny, Spring colours in the house, so Amber & Rose is a nice choice. It’s quite subtle, with a floral heart of tuberose, packaged in a sunny golden yellow.
Stephanie: For me, Mother’s Day has to be pink! So something fresh and juicy like Tropical Watermelon.