This is the second part of a three-part article about ice melt.

To offset winter’s uncertainty, distributors should make a concerted effort to predict how much ice melt they will need based on previous winters and future forecasts, their clients’ needs and what they sold early during each of the last few winter seasons, says Michael Ross, national sales manager, Compass Minerals, Overland Park, Kansas.

“Everyone wishes they had a crystal ball,” adds Ross. “There is not a set amount that you can say out there. It does not work on a broad basis. They need to look at their own business.”

Another key is for distributors to always have some ice melt product they can offer to their clients, even if it is a product the client does not desire. This approach requires distributors to possess diverse product offerings and enough warehouse space to be able to store products for a period of time.

Distributors should also have more than one ice melt supplier and if they do not, they should immediately develop relationships with new suppliers during the offseason and foster the relationship year after year.

“It’s really smart for a distributor … to be constantly working with two reputable manufacturers,” says Kevin Wice, president, XYNYTH Manufacturing Corp., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “If they are going to carry one low-end (product) and one high-end (product), give one to one manufacturer and the other to another manufacturer so that when push comes to shove they already have relationships built.”

It will be easier to manage the onslaught of ice melt demand if distributors focus on early and preseason sales and buys, well before the snow and sleet starts to drop. Sales representatives should be instructed to approach clients during the summer with ice melt sales pitches. Most customers probably won’t be interested in thinking about the winter yet, but creating incentive programs for both salesmen and clients can help spur some action.
 
“It’s so that they will think about it now and act on it now,” says Ross. “It’s not just about buying early. It’s also about selling early.”

Jan/san distributors can also manage up the supply chain by getting a firm grasp of the supply chains of their suppliers and manufacturers and gain an understanding of what they are capable of in terms of supplying the market and filling demand.

“Other things come into play if you wait, such as rivers getting shut down, highways getting shut down, lakes freezing over and transportation not being able to move,” says Ross. “We really need to spread this message up and down the supply chain.”