How To: Run a Trolley Shop

Robyn Taylor shares some suggestions for running a simple trolley shop, selling basics and toiletries, which is not only an important part of giving residents a choice and a feeling of individuality, but also doubles as a fantastic activity and an especially useful resource during lockdowns…

Many care homes are different when it comes to toiletries and shopping for basics. Some homes provide them and others charge an extra fee, where others may ask the relatives to bring them in.

Whatever happens at your care home, setting up a trolley shop is a great way to give residents the independence if they can not get out to the local store to buy things, or if relatives do not visit regularly enough to drop items to them.


  • A lockable trolley
  • Accounts folder
  • Petty cash tin


  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shower gels
  • Bubble bath
  • Soap (bars & dispensed)
  • Talcum powder
  • Dry shampoo
  • Moisturiser
  • Shower caps
  • Toothbrushes/paste/mouthwash/floss/denture tubs & tablets/Fixodent
  • Flannels/sponges/exfoliating sponges
  • Nail varnish & remover
  • Nail files/clippers/brushes
  • Tissues (box & pocket-sized)
  • Hairbrushes/combs/bobbles/clips/hairbands
  • Pens
  • Notepads
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Birthday/Anniversary/Christmas/Get Well Soon cards
  • Magazines
  • Sweets
  • Chocolates
  • Drinks


Firstly, speak with your home manager and admin team and decide the best way to run this financially. You’ll need to set up an accounts folder, keep a record of anything you have purchased, and make a chart of ingoings and outgoings. Also ensure you document residents’ purchases, and how they pay, so you can refer to it when needed. Bear in mind, many residents will not have access to their own money, so you may need an option to charge items back to their account.

Next, you’ll need to purchase a trolley and stock the shelves. Use little storage boxes or old shoeboxes to keep similar items together. Keep the trolley stored away and only give certain members of the team access to the trolley so you can accurately manage stock and petty cash. Always remember to keep well-stocked, and check the sell-by dates.

Ask your residents what they would like to be able to purchase so you can ensure very little wasted stock. Make a form for the care staff which they can fill out throughout the week if residents need any toiletries. They will be more aware if stock is running low. Ensure the home manager is aware and can remind the team to do this as part of a regular routine.

When you price items for the trolley shop, they will more than likely be different values, so label them up clearly so people can see the price. This is a great job for a resident.

Set a day each week for the trolley to go round, and advertise and make people aware that this is the day when the shop is open. Invite residents to visit the shop, encourage them to smell the fragrances and look at certain items, inspire conversation and reminiscence. Many residents will want to come and visit the shop even if they don’t need anything, so they feel as though they are having a change of scenery. Others may want you to visit them in their rooms or lounges. Ensure you go around the entire home and don’t miss anyone out.


People may want something off the trolley shop that you do not sell. Write their suggestion down for the next time you go into town. (You may have to ring their relatives if they are wanting it sooner than you can get it for them.)

You may be doing another activity and a staff member or resident wants some shampoo that very moment. Remind staff that this is where the sheets for the care staff come in handy as they can fill these out before the residents run out.

Relatives complaining that additional items are being charged to the account. Ensure you contact the families in advance of setting up the trolley shop, so they are aware that a loved one might be purchasing something. Some families may not want their loved one purchasing extra things from the trolley, so try to distract this person by giving them a role, such as pushing the trolley or writing the details and sales in the book for you.

Allergies. Make a note somewhere on your shop to indicate if people have allergies or skin irritations, so you are aware to only sell them items which are for sensitive skin.