OK, I have been reading the forums, just basically lurking about and I have some real questions and a need for opinions from all of you who passionately love these lamps....
Currently, I am in the midst of prototyping a new motion lamp... well actually several types. I have done much research, have a biochemical engineer standing by, a very experienced machinery shop in the fold, etc.
My questions are these:
Besides the obvious most important feature of working correctly, what is the single most important feature of a "Wax Type" lamp to you? Color mix? Size? Shape? Price?
How important is GRAS ("Generally Regarded As Safe") mixtures in your decision to buy? To be more specific, what would keep you from buying it? For example, Iodine is poisonous, however you still buy it with the understanding of it's proper useage and the inherent risk of having it around. Understand that I am not saying ANY mixture would be recommened for consumption, but what level of hazard is acceptable?
In a "Glitter Type" lamp, would a more complex shape be desirable, or would just the color / motion combination be the most important?
Is the ability to easily change the contents, accepting the both the voidance of any warranty and the responsibility that any changes may render the lamp as unsafe, a major point in buying?
Is the option to have your lamps "refurbished" a major point? Would a window of opportunity to send back a lamp for service that is limited to once or twice a year be acceptable?
Now, those are the main questions.... here's the main problems.
I happen to be located in Northern Illinois.... virtually every constituent to make the lamps is local to me. The costs to make them, however, is a major issue. Here are a few reasons you haven't seen a USA manufacturer making these lamps in recent years....
You need "testing lab" certifications. UL, CE, ETL, MET, etc. The costs and ongoing procedural visits to make sure you are adhering to the standards granted are an added cost that must be rolled into the cost of the lamps.
EPA and OSHA classifications automatically place you as handling "Hazardous Materials". Waste removal now becomes a major expense, as does any safety regulations for working with these materials.
Freight and warehousing costs. If you are located close enough to your raw suppliers, your cartage costs will be less, however your facility costs such as rent, insurance, utilities will be higher. Moving farther away somewhat lessens the costs for facilities, but cartage or freight becomes higher. The farther away from your supplier also mandates more raw stock so you don't run out.
Wages. With the exception of the chemical engineering side, assembly labor is pretty much unskilled. The problem is, you need caring workers. Minimum wage doesn't tend to create much of a caring attitude in a worker. The new Health Insurance mandates are a new wrinkle in the mix as well.
Distribution. Ahh, the magic word. As Haggerty Enterprises alluded to in their response(s) elsewhere in these forums, the Big Box Retailers will only buy a product they can make a certain profit level on. You can certainly forego dealing with them, but now your costs will never really go down very much, because the old adage of "more product - less cost" comes into play. If you stay small enough for personal attention to the customer, you also have to accept sales that will always pretty much keep you small.
Lastly, I am an older person who isn't after making enough money to buy a small island off the coast of Barbados, however I do want to be able to eat 3 square meals everyday. I would be very interested in hearing any comments, suggestions, or even general observations about this subject.
Thanks for reading!