A red ice melt dispenser

Byrne’s customer base for ice melt fluctuates from year-to-year depending on how harsh or mild the previous season was. 

“Our goal, as a distributor, is to have as little ice melt as possible in our buildings over the summer, but not run out during the winter,” says Byrne. “That can be a difficult balancing act.”

One way Acorn Distributors gets a leg up on what they need is by offering discounted “early bird” pricing in August to encourage customers to start thinking and planning for their ice melt needs for the coming season. Although, it can be challenging to talk about ice melt when it’s 80 degrees outside, Byrne says customers are getting accustomed to the company’s approach and they realize how much they save with an early commitment.

“We have even allowed our customers to prepay for ice melt in August, and we store it for them and ship as needed throughout the season,” says Byrne.

Attman also likes to secure business in the summer and early fall.

“We aren’t necessarily selling (or taking customer’s money), but locking in the business now,” says Attman. “Customers who have always purchased from us go to the front of the line. We have a handshake or email agreement with those who want to buy and gives us an idea of how much ice melt we need this year.”

Attman says customers need to partner with someone who will maintain an inventory for them. The last thing the end user wants is for its supplier not to have a supply of ice melt, forcing it to go without.

Ramifications Of Running Out

The main reason end customers use ice melt is so that guests, employees and anyone one else walking on the surfaces they maintain, don’t slip and fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million Americans slip, trip and/or fall each year. Due to their injuries 17,000 of those people die. 

Slip-falls rank as the major cause of accidents in hotels, restaurants and public buildings. Seventy-percent of those falls happen on level or flat surfaces. Distributors don’t want anyone slipping on property their customers are responsible for because they didn’t have ice melt. 

Fagin works alongside a forensic meteorologist who is often summoned to court for slip-and-fall lawsuits and he says the damages paid by who is determined to be at fault can go as high as $500,000.

To have access to the amount of ice melt needed at the right time, Scoles suggests purchasers partner with suppliers so they can get inventory within a couple of days. Purchasers should also keep a constant eye on the long-term weather patterns in the area they serve in case an order needs to be tweaked.

“Always buy early and buy enough to take care of your initial needs,” says Attman. “You don’t know when the first (snow) event will come and what part of the nation will be affected.” 

Heather Larson is a freelance writer from Federal Way, Washington

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Doing Ice Melt Homework Saves Distributors Money