Giant Bow Market Is Slowing Down Right Along With New Car Sales

Are we heading for a recession? Giant bow store owners certain think so.

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Image: BMW

Yes Virginia, people actually do put giant red bows on newly purchased vehicles and then give those vehicles as incredibly exorbitant gifts. Sales of those giant bows seemed to slowing down, however, right alongside the formerly hot automotive market.

It’s another indication of recession (or bow-cession, as the Wall Street Journal calls it) that people are buying less brand-new vehicles despite all the various holiday-themed year-end sales. When carmakers lose consumers despite your Happy Honda Days/December to Remember/Toyotathon sales, they know they’re in trouble. It’s also hits the folks who sell the bows particularly hard, as the WSJ reports:

Some makers and sellers of car bows, the oversize decorations that sit on hoods and roofs, report a steep decline in business this holiday season. As with many economic indicators of late, the data is mixed. But if weak bow sales are taken as a shiny red indicator, they may foreshadow a drop-off in the number of cars given as gifts this year.

Orders are down 35% this holiday season at King Size Bows, which sells thousands of car bows each year to dealerships and individual consumers. That works out to hundreds fewer bows than normal, says Amber Hughes, the Costa Mesa, Calif., company’s owner.

Michael Rudolph, president of Car Bow Store in Warminster, Pa., also reports that sales have declined, though he won’t know by how much until the end of the year. And on the dealership side of the market, Tom Maoli, the owner of Lexus of Route 10 in Whippany, N.J., says he ordered fewer bows this year because new car sales are down and his inventory has been low.

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Won’t someone please think of the bow store owners? Where’s their bailout, Washington? 

Bows on cars has been a thing for the last 20 years, ever since Lexus slapped a bow on its first cars during the first December to Remember sales event. It’s become such a silly trope that BMW used its holiday sales commercial to poke a little fun at the practice.

Holidays are here! | 2022 BMW Road Home Sales Event | BMW USA

The practice was even competently roasted by Saturday Night Live:

December to Remember Car Commercial - SNL

All of this is anecdotal evidence of a bow industry in a nosedive, but the auto industry’s slow down has real numbers behind it. Last year, dealers managed to get 14.9 million vehicles off their lots thanks, in part, to pent up demand following COVID-19 lockdowns. This year J.D. Powers estimates sales will only reach 13.7 million thanks to low inventories and supply chain woes. The shortage in cars meant prices were pushed up. Cox Automotive found car sales were down over 17 percent at the height of demand of over the summer while average car payments spiked to $712. Meanwhile, car payments of upwards and over of $1,000 are becoming more common, even as Americans begin to default on their car loans. Of course, these inflated prices are also due to inflation, which was driven by high gas prices.

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To be fair, the Journal also spoke to one bow store owner who has seen sales jump up 40 percent, thanks to the low inventories at dealerships:

Not all bow sellers are having a rough year. At Golden Openings, a ceremonial supplies and events company in Urbandale, Iowa, car-bow sales are up 40% this holiday season, which amounts to roughly a hundred more bows, says owner Kimberly Baeth.

Ms. Baeth thinks that this year’s low auto inventories may have actually helped her business. “A lot of dealerships tell me they can’t even get the cars in,” she says. “But when they do, they want to make it extra special.”

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Actually getting a hold of a car these days is pretty special, so no matter what time of year, go ahead and put a bow on it.