Friday, January 20, 2012

Incense Retailing Secrets by Carl F. Neal

Dear Booksellers,

As many of you know, incense is more than just nice-smelling smoke. It can be used to deepen meditation, cleanse bad energy, and drive away unwanted spirits. A powerful tool in ritual and self-change, it makes sense that many metaphysical shops carry this aromatic product. 

Do customers ever ask questions about the incense you carry? This insightful article from Carl F. Neal, author of Incense and Incense Magick (a March 2012 release), explains some not-widely-known details about charcoal incense. 

Incense Retailing Secrets: Charcoal
By Carl F. Neal

As incense customers become more sophisticated in their purchasing habits, it’s important for retailers to be prepared for questions. Many customers have an increasing interest in not only the materials in their incense, but also its point of origin, harvesting methods, and more. Unless your business specializes in selling incense or aromatics you may be unable to answer some of those questions, but you can definitely address many of your customers’ concerns. 

Two Kinds of Incense Charcoal

Charcoal is a commonly purchased incense product and one that presents a growing concern from consumers. Incense charcoal can generally be broken into two categories: those without saltpeter (potassium or sodium nitrate) and those that do include this ingredient. This is a concern to many customers because saltpeter gives off a bad odor, which can affect the smell of herbs, resins, or other types of incense. More importantly, the saltpeter is an oxidizer that increases the amount of heat produced by the charcoal. When charcoal burns hot, it will destroy the incense placed on it much faster.

Why Use Saltpeter?

So why include saltpeter in any charcoal? The saltpeter can make it easier to light this type of charcoal and keep it burning regardless of the quality of the wood that is used. There is a perception among some consumers that saltpeter is mandatory for charcoal to light easily.

Benefits of Low-Scent Charcoal

Incense Magick
by Carl F. Neal
The other category of charcoal (most often bamboo charcoal, but not always) generally offers a product that produces little or no scent of its own. Properly stored low-scent charcoal is just as easy to light as “self-lighting” varieties, but it is difficult for retailers to know how charcoal was stored before they receive it. This type of charcoal is often sold in smaller sized bricks than its self-lighting counterparts, but ironically low-scent charcoal bricks will generally burn longer. Low-scent charcoal can actually cost the same or less than self-lighting on a brick-for-brick basis.

Don’t forget to mention the lack of scent. That’s a strong selling point.

Incense Lighting Tips

Here are some tips for lighting charcoal that does not contain saltpeter:
  • Light charcoal over a candle flame rather than attempting to use a butane lighter.
  • Use metal tongs to hold the charcoal so you don’t scorch fingers.
  • Allow the charcoal to sit after lighting until the entire brick is covered with a layer of fine ash.

Distinguishing Low-Scent Charcoal from Types Containing Saltpeter

So which types do you sell? If any of your charcoal is labeled “self-lighting” or if it sparks and sputters when initially lit, then this charcoal includes saltpeter. This type of charcoal is often sold in rolls of round charcoal bricks wrapped in foil or plastic. Many brands of this style come from India. Ounce-for-ounce, it is usually less expensive than other types of charcoal.

Low-scent charcoal generally comes from Japanese and Chinese suppliers. The bricks can be square, rectangular, or even (usually in the formal style for the “kodo ceremony”) cylindrical in form. Some brands are covered in paper to prevent charcoal dust from transferring to the user’s fingers. I am unaware of any low-scent charcoal that is sold in rolls, but there may be some brands out there that are. Low-scent charcoal is available from a number of wholesale suppliers in the USA and Europe.

Incense Displays

In just a few inches of display area, you can illustrate how each type of charcoal is best used and a comparison between the two. These types of displays have historically made dramatic improvements in the sales of charcoal, censers/burners, and incense.

Knowing your products and having ready answers for your customers will improve your sales and build confidence in your customer base. Educating your staff will allow everyone to provide consistent advice and guidance.

Smells like a great approach to me!


Carl F. Neal is the author of Incense and his new book Incense Magick will be released this March. He has been a student of incense since 1977. In 1995, he became a professional incense maker and has avidly researched incense ever since. He has been lucky enough to learn from a variety of incense makers from North and South America, Asia, and Europe.

Carl leads incense workshops and discussions across the country and loves teaching about incense at all sorts of community events. Visit his website. 

Boost Your Frequency, Boost Your Business

Dear Booksellers,

Ever have one of those perfect days at work? Your staff is smiling and laughing. Your customers are happy and talkative. Your store is filled with good vibes and great potential. Nothing can go wrong. And do you happen to notice more business on these rare occasions?

Good moods are definitely contagious. Consider how a sunny outlook can infuse your store with positive energy that will infect everyone. So how can you lift a dark atmosphere or a foul mood that could threaten sales? Try raising your spiritual frequency.

I’ve invited Melissa Alvarez, the author of 365 Ways to Raise Your Frequency, to discuss how to boost your personal vibrations at work. Consider trying one of these simple, quick exercises to zap negativity, attract abundance, and maintain your store’s positive energy.

365 Ways to Raise Your Frequency
by Melissa Alvarez

Raising Frequency on the Job
By Melissa Alvarez

Now that the holiday rush is over and returns have been dealt with, life for retail employees is returning to normal. Having worked in retail management for fifteen years, from big department stores to small specialty shops, I can understand.

This is an excellent time to use frequency-raising exercises in the workplace. Not only can you raise your own personal frequency, but your increased vibration can have a positive effect on your customers and sales.

You can even increase frequency as a group. If every employee in the store works on raising their energy, customers will feel this positive energy when they walk in the door. They’ll love coming to your store and may tell others what good energy it has. Word of mouth advertising is always the best compliment, isn’t it?

Connecting with your Customers

Raising your frequency at work offers a fuller and richer connection to your customers. Try this frequency-raising exercise before you start your shift.

Imagine you are a customer. See yourself walking through the front door and looking around. What do you see? Is there anyone there to greet you? What is everyone doing? Now imagine yourself walking through the aisles and an employee comes over to ask if you need help. What kind of energy do you sense? Is the employee’s frequency high or low? How does he/she make you feel?

By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can alter the way your own frequency radiates. You can purposefully raise it by using creative visualization. Look at your energy and push aside any negativity and fill that space with positively charged, highly vibrating energy. This raises your frequency and will have a positive effect on your customers.

Selling More Merchandise

If you’ve connected to your customers through raising your frequency and creating a positive experience for them, then they may be more willing to purchase additional suggestions you make on other products.

Displays filled with positive energy also sell more merchandise. As you make the display, use creative visualization to imagine your energy vibrating at a higher rate, filling you with positivity. Now let the positive energy of your increased frequency flow into the display. Give it the intention that it will be pleasing to the eye and will draw customers to it. When you are finished, step back and watch customer reactions.

Quick Frequency Raising Exercises

Anytime you feel like your energy is taking a nosedive, you can raise your frequency. Try any of these quick and easy exercises:

Find Messages in Books
Working in a bookstore is a fantastic place to be if your frequency goes on the fritz. Take a moment to center yourself then walk around to you come to a shelf and book you feel drawn to. Open the book to a random page. Quite often you will read a frequency-boosting message.

Pay Attention to Your Breathing
With just a few focused breaths you can relieve stress and increase your frequency. Breathe deeply, inhale, and feel your energy rise. Release negativity as you exhale.

Change the Music
Music can immediately raise everyone’s frequency. Tone and tempo can liven up the energy throughout the store.

Quick Meditation to Alter Your Mood
Take a couple of minutes to clear your mind and connect to your center of balance. Purposefully imagine your energy moving faster, increasing your frequency, and giving you a sense of calm peace and joy.

Exercise/Yoga in the Break Room
On a break? Stretch and loosen up your muscles before returning to the sales floor. The movement will rev up your frequency.


Melissa Alvarez is an internationally known spiritual coach and an award-winning author. She conducts workshops teaching others to connect with their psychic abilities and spirituality, and has performed psychic readings for nearly twenty years. Visit her website.

Melissa Alvarez on her favorite bookstore:
I enjoy visiting Books-A-Million in Jupiter, Florida. The employees are always happy and radiate positivity.

Do you do anything special to boost staff morale or brighten the atmosphere of your shop? Please share.