‘An unexpected victim’: Negative reviews of scented candles increase amid coronavirus

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From aviation to hospitality, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on many of the world’s largest industries.

But according to new data, the virus has also claimed another unexpected victim: scented candles.


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Negative reviews of scented candles have increased in correlation with coronavirus cases in the US, according to analysis by Harvard Study of Adult Development Research Assistant Kate Petrova, who suggested that people losing their sense of smell – a common symptom of COVID-19 – could be behind the trend.

Data published by Petrova on Twitter showed that between January – the outbreak of the pandemic – and November 2020, negative reviews of the three most popular scented candles on online retailer Amazon increased sharply.

Crucially, customer satisfaction with scented candles has been dropping much faster than unscented candles, with many of the reviews claiming the candles did not smell strong enough.

To test her theory further, Petrova expanded her sample size of the top five scented candles from four brands. Again, she found that negative reviews of scented candles – in contrast to unscented candles – had risen in correlation with the coronavirus outbreak.

“Since the beginning of this year, the proportion of reviews mentioning lack of scent grew from < 2% in January to close to 6% in November. These numbers may not seem like much, but the trajectory of no-scent reviews over the last 11 months is certainly an interesting one,” she wrote on Twitter.

Her tweets also prompted others to apply the theory to other markets, with similar results.

Moritz Wagner, a PhD student at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, plotted the top 10 rated perfumes on UK Amazon against the coronavirus outbreak.

His data also appeared to show a correlation, albeit a smaller one than Petrova’s US data.

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