In every advertisement for a holiday car sales event, there are a few critical elements. The smiling family. A snowy winter morning. There is, of course, a brand new car. And sitting atop that car is an item that has become as important to the mystique of giving – or getting – a brand new vehicle for the holidays as the car itself: a big red bow.
However, it’s not as if one can just walk into a store and buy a 30-inch bow. Few holiday gifts require an ornamental ribbon of that size. We wanted to find out where the hundreds of car dealerships across the country get these bows from, and who makes them.
The Big Red Bows For Cars are a Holiday Staple
The bows have been a part of the imagery of automakers’ holiday sales ads for decades, and those bright red ribbons are now a big part of the holiday sales business. According to Erick Kirks, Marketing Director for Johnson Lexus in Raleigh, NC, “The red bows are very important to our guest delivery experience,” he says. “We love them so much … we always order extras.”
One of the main places dealerships like Johnson get those bows from is King Size Bows in Costa Mesa, CA, owned and operated by Amber Kingaard-Hughes. She says that as important as the bows are to car dealerships, they can be even more important to the people who buy cars from those dealerships.
“We get calls from dealerships that the bow was part of the negotiation process,” she says. “We also get calls from clients that didn’t get to keep the bow from the dealership on the car, and they want one.”
An Accident Drove Kingaard-Hughes to the Bow Business
Kingaard-Hughes hasn’t always been in the giant ribbon business. She was working as an emergency dispatcher before a car accident changed her life.
“By accident, literally,” she says as she explains how she got into the business. “I was a 911 dispatcher and was in a bad car accident on my way to work. I had major facial injuries requiring surgery and could not speak for a year. I had to resign from dispatching.”
While the car accident and resulting surgeries prevented Kingaard-Hughes from working the emergency lines, it didn’t stop her from moving forward. As she recovered, she decided to start a new line of work.
“My mom and I went into business together,” she continues. “She was the voice of the business, and I was designing. In the meantime, after countless specialists’ care and speech therapy, I got my voice back.”
Since then, King Size Bows has become one of the first places dealerships turn to when they need their holiday sales event bows. Despite the company’s growth and success, Kingaard-Hughes says the company has kept its family nature and tight focus.
“We are a woman- and family-owned business,” she said. “Our products are made in the USA, by us, in our design studio. Our materials are locally sourced. We love what we do, and we think it shows.”
Car Dealerships Buy Lots of Bows
King Size Bows makes bows and ribbons for many occasions and purposes. However, Kingaard-Hughes says that car dealerships buying big red bows for their holiday sales events make up a substantial part of her business.
“I would estimate 40-50% is to car dealerships, TV commercials, and car giveaways during the holidays for both ready-to-ship bows and custom bows,” she reports. “Dealerships are not only putting bows on cars for photo ops, but are putting bows on their buildings, in their showrooms – and some keep bows on hand to give to the clients.”
According to Kingaard-Hughes, holiday car bows also take up a significant portion of her business calendar.
“While we are a year-round business, by far the busiest time of year for us is end of May through December,” she says. “Our custom orders for Christmas start coming in at the end of May, beginning of June. By the beginning of fall, our production schedule for custom orders is booked for the season.”
King Size Bows To the Moon?
While dealerships selling cars as holiday gifts make up a substantial portion of Kingaard-Hughes’ business, it’s not all of it. King Size Bows makes decorative ribbons and bows for many other purposes, even while the company is busy making holiday car bows.
“Amid the holiday shuffle, we are also creating health-awareness loops for childhood cancer [which the month of September is dedicated to] and breast cancer awareness [which takes place in October], to name a few,” says Kingaard-Hughes.
And while those red bows from the car commercials are iconic in part due to their massive size, the company makes some that are much, much larger
“We have made several 20-foot breast cancer awareness loops for hospitals, buildings, and amusement parks,” she details. “We make bows and health-awareness loops in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles to help [people] celebrate, honor, or remember.”
Kingaard-Hughes says that her company has had some requests for bows that were out of this world – quite literally.
“We had someone inquire about putting a bow on one of the spaceships a couple years ago,” she says.
Turning a Transaction Into a Celebration
But while the company’s products have adorned everything from buildings to roller coasters, it’s still the holiday auto sales events that are at the heart of the business. A tradition that started just over 20 years ago to help drive December car sales has become part of the American holiday season, albeit a commercial one.
This tradition has, in turn, created an annual need for big red bows for cars. Kingaard-Hughes believes that the bows have endured over the years because they add a little holiday magic to the gift of a new vehicle.
“I believe the bow transforms it from a transaction to a celebration,” says Kingaard-Hughes as to why the bows are so popular. “Everyone has seen the car commercials with the bows on top and many think it is just for TV, and won’t happen for them. The bow makes the dream real.”