Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Boosting sales during the holiday season

Promoting carwash items as gifts at Christmastime can be beneficial for both the carwash and the purchaser.

October 21, 2013

Promoting carwash items as gifts at Christmastime can be beneficial for both the carwash and the purchaser — providing a unique gift for a hard-to-buy-for relative or friend, while generating additional sales for the carwash operator. All types of carwashes can benefit — here are a couple ideas to stimulate some seasonal sales.

Gift baskets

Some operators have found that bundling an assortment of products — many of which are already sold through their vending machines — can be attractively packed as holiday gifts.  Dave Lawrence, of Water Master Car Wash, an operator with a pair of self-service facilities in rural Utah, rewards his best customers with items that they can use.

“I put together some air freshener, an Armor All sponge, a towel and five tokens — and give them to my best customers,” said Lawrence.  “They think it is as cute as can be,” he commented. “I’ve got about $2 or $2.50 of out of pocket costs in the gift.”

While Lawrence gives them to his best customers as a goodwill gesture, the same packages can easily be assembled and sold at Christmastime. When dressed up with a gift basket, some seasonal cellophane and a festive red bow, this holiday presentation might be the perfect gift for the neighbor who cuts your grass, delivers the local newspaper, or for a hard-to-buy-for relative or friend.

George Brown, who owns and operates two Wally Wash locations in the Oklahoma City area, takes a slightly different approach. Brown bundles 20 carwash tokens, packages them in an attractive silk bag about 3-inches square which he purchases in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company — an online and catalog retailer. He ties the bag with a gold ribbon and affixes a Wally Wash business card which serves as a gift tag.

In essence, Brown says he uses tokens to, “create a gift to give someone who already has everything. These bags of gold sold really well to people whose parents who are seniors.  They want to get a senior into an express carwash because they don’t have to get out of the car, of course they don’t have to tell them that,” continued Brown.

The $20 sale amount seems to work well on a couple of fronts.  It is not a terribly expensive gift at that level, and it can provide two or three carwashes, because the prices for an exterior tunnel wash are $6, $8, $10 and $12.

 He also had requests to make up bags with larger quantities of tokens. “If someone asks for a gift bag with 100 tokens, we’re sure going to make one for him,” chuckled Brown.

Whether you opt to sell tokens only, or a grouping of products, the packaging is key.  While customers may see the value in products such as a chamois, or air freshener, a sponge or tokens — in gift giving the presentation is everything.  Providing a package that can be given to someone as is — thus simplifying the gift-givers day — is critical. 

With a little planning and forethought, decorative and festive baskets can be found inexpensively. Wrapping them in holiday cellophane — also readily available before the holidays — completes the look and helps to promote the sale.

Not a creature was stirring…

 While Holiday gift baskets and tokens packages can be a great way to boost seasonal sales, promoting them is essential. Signage around the facility is always a good start — and can be as simple as a flyer showing and describing the product with a nice photo.  Online promotions are also easily accomplished and can be fruitful. 

Seasonal gift baskets and token packages can be sold onsite and promoted online on your company website.  If you collect email addresses for your customers, send them a message showing the baskets and describing how they are perfect for hard-to-buy people on their shopping list.  Tweet about it to your followers — especially if you get positive feedback from customers who have purchased them.  Make the most of your social media presence!

Good neighbors make better baskets

Look around to neighboring businesses — are there cross-promotional opportunities that can benefit you both?  A gift certificate to the restaurant or coffee shop adjacent to your car wash might be an ideal addition to the basket (and who knows, they may have ideas and sources on packaging that can really dress up the offering).  Automotive-themed establishments might also offer options — maybe the quick lube will provide some buy-one-get-one coupons, or an auto-parts store will partner with some do-it-yourself items.

Regardless of how grand or simple you want your gift-baskets to be, there are seasonal opportunities for every size and type of car wash.  The options are limited to your own creativity.

Jim Wahl writes for TokensDirect, a division of Osborne Coinage Co., America’s oldest private mint. Stock and custom tokens are available to suit any need. Orders for stock tokens can now be placed at a secure online store,, to ship the next business day. To speak with a sales specialist, contact TokensDirect at (866) 274-0868, or via mail to TokensDirect, 2851 Massachusetts Avenue, Cincinnati, OH  45225, or via e-mail at

Holiday marketing tips from Andi McJunkin, marketing and brand manager for Autobell® Car Wash.

  1. Our holiday specials encompass two phases. In mid-October, we begin Phase One with our Autobell Coupon/ Cartoon Calendar sale. This popular item was introduced in 2004 and has grown each year. The first 12 months of our 13-month calendar feature two different coupon offers for the customer that total over $80 in savings for the year, including a free exterior wash — all for the calendar sale price of $6.99, including tax. Our goal is to sell out our calendar inventory quickly and transition into the next marketing phase during the week of Thanksgiving. For Phase Two, we offer gift cards from $10-$100 in $5 increments with a holiday gift card holder; and a book of three full service washes, normally $14.99 per wash, for $40. This year we will offer an additional option of two of our top-tier washes, normally $22.99 each, for just $36.75.
  2. As soon as one season is done, we begin analyzing the results and brainstorming and researching tweaks and new options. The calendar is essentially a year-round project, with ongoing tracking of coupon redemption alongside the next one’s conceptualization, custom cartoons, messaging, and design. The in-store promotional signage begins in August with design, quotes, and planning. With 65 locations, it is quite an orchestration with marketing materials and seasonal decoration packs for each store.
  3. Much like our volume, the sales begin steadily with our calendar and increase over the length of the holiday season. In December of last year, for instance, we saw a $2.50 increase per car with the additional sales from holiday items.
  4. We support onsite sales with large-scale signage as well as low-tack signage at the register. For out-ofstore advertising, we utilize TV and radio ads. We also rely a great deal on our email and text database to advertise to our loyal customer base. This year we will also be including digital ads for the holidays. We support holiday and all other promotional activity via our social media outlets as well. These are all marketing vehicles we use year-round; however, our messages change specific to our offerings for each holiday season.