Twelve months is a long time to wait for the warmth of profit.

Countless kiwi small businesses are depending on this month to make the bulk of their sales for the year.

And one of the sectors most dependent on Christmas sales is candle manufacturing.

New Zealand has three main candle-making companies that estimate that anything from a quarter to a third of their year's business is done in the festive season.

Nicola Farrant, of Candles of New Zealand in Mt Maunganui, says it can be tricky to balance cashflow throughout the year.


Manufacturing is usually done in the first part of the year, which requires a financial outlay that is not recouped until the end of the year.

"You just have to realise that it's going to come in later and go out earlier."

She says orders from foreign buyers come in earlier than local orders do and this year is looking much better than last. "It's a well-priced gift, especially with the recession."

Meanwhile, Golden Bay firm Living Light Candles has teamed up with Auckland candle retailer Riva, and they have big expansion plans.

Living Light exports to Japan, Singapore, Germany and Australia and shipments to Holland will begin soon.

In Japan, the candles are stocked by department store Barneys of New York.

Founder Cynthia Baur says, "We produce around 400,000 candles annually but we'd like to grow this figure to 500,000 in the next 12 months and raise our exports from 15 per cent to 40 per cent."

Baur will visit Japan next year to hold in-store demonstrations of candle-making.

She says the intention of the new flagship shop in Auckland is to promote and protect the Living Light brand.

Riva's owner, Louise Barnes, had been one of Living Light's best customers.

Baur says: "She was willing to give up her brand to be part of the strategy."

Sam McLean, of National Candles, says his firm has a smaller proportion of its stock in gift candles, so it is not as affected by the Christmas rush.

Most of its business is through supermarkets and hospitality outlets.

But, he says, Christmas is still one of the busier periods.

"Ten or 12 years ago candles were very trendy. That died down a bit but they seem to have come back."