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Operations and Management

Increasing sales with impulse items

Additional profit items can increase your profits, if you do it the right way.


Adding additional profit items like greeting cards, air fresheners and other car care accessories can provide a boost to the revenue of your carwash. Greeting cards and air fresheners can be marked up to the discretion of the owner. Retailers may purchase an air freshener for 34 to 35 cents, and the retailer may sell the product for more than a dollar.

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However, finding the best product fit can be a challenge for owners and managers.

Use your space

Ken Flower, president of Flower Manufacturing LLC, DBA Custom Fresheners, says operators should fill every open space in the building with products so the customer will see something he or she wants. Flower learned from his father, a self-serve carwash owner, who said the more vending machines you have, the more products you have available to sell.

“So we always made sure we used every square inch of space available,” explains Flower. “The more stuff people see, the chances of them having an impulse buy is higher.”


Flower uses convenience stores as an example of filling every available space with inventory. “There are millions of dollars spent researching buyer psychology when it comes to locations,” he says.

A grocery store is another example of utilizing space in a way to sell more to customers, according to Flower, “…They put the milk, the eggs and the butter all the way in the back corner, so you have to walk through everything else to get there,” he says. The idea is the customer will pick up detergent on the way back to get eggs.


“If you have space, put something in it, and chances are, people are going to buy it,” says Flower. “The more impulse items you have, the higher [the] bottom line you can generate.

“It’s a lot less about what the customer comes into the store thinking they want; it’s about what they walk out with in their hand,” notes Flower.

Flower says carwash owners should make sure their products are neat, tidy, clean and organized. For him, lighting is the most important part of displaying air fresheners. Products at eye level will sell more because they will be noticed.


Howard G., business development at Stockwell Greetings, recommends displaying greeting cards either in the waiting area or at the counter for point-of-purchase sales. He also says carwash owners can promote the cards with signs at checkout.

Know the risks

Additional profit items like air fresheners and greeting cards can be great ways to add to your bottom line. However, carwash owners should know the challenges they bring.

According to Flower, the only two issues associated with offering air fresheners in a carwash are the risk of theft and keeping track of inventory. Systems can be put in place to better manage both of these, and surveillance cameras can help to deter thieves and catch them if theft does happen.


When it comes to greeting cards, Howard says a challenge to carrying the product could be that some customers may not be accustomed to seeing cards in the store. Many carwashes may also carry a smaller selection, which makes it harder for customers to commit to the purchase. 

Things to remember

While owners may control the pricing of additional profit items, they should keep in mind the need to compete with other carwashes and retailers.

“…At the end of the day you are competing with dollar stores. People have come to expect greeting cards to be priced low,” noted Howard. “As for planning, just keep in mind the clientele that you are catering to.” Socio-economic status, age group and gender are just some of the factors that influence what kinds of products may work well in your business.


Howard says that even with the challenges, greeting cards are one of the few products that offer the potential for large profit margins.

Air fresheners can have a promotional aspect once they are outside your business as well. Flower says they can act as billboards once a customer hangs them on their rearview mirror. Other drivers can see these, and oftentimes they remain on a rearview mirror for months or even years.

Flower advises business owners to buy what sells, not necessarily what they like. Some air freshener scents sell better than others. He says you can’t let your personal preference determine how you make money.

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