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Indie Closeup: Lund Heats Up Cold Dispensed, Car Wash During Winter

Owner of Beaudry Express stays resourceful to succeed in the Minneapolis suburbs
beaudry express convenience store
Photograph courtesy of Beaudry Express

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume that category X won’t sell during season Y. In short, why bother putting price, promotion and display muscle behind certain offers during so-called “off season”?

Independent, single-store convenience-store operator Josh Lund, owner of Beaudry Express, Elk River, Minnesota, has worked hard to keep a close eye on the ebbs and flows of categories at his 2,000-square-foot Marathon-branded c-store located north of Minneapolis.

One case in point is the generous cold dispensed beverage sales Lund has been notching during wintertime. The uptick in cold dispensed was sparked by a new equipment purchase. Lund and his wife Lisa went to eBay two years ago to price frozen beverage machines after their existing one experienced downtime due to malfunction, and the consistency of flavors suffered.

Springing into action, Lund secured an ICEE (The ICEE Co.) machine for $3,000—he pegs the machine’s value at exceeding $10,000.“I thought it was a typo,” he told CSP.

“After acquiring it, we saw cold dispensed sales quadruple for full-year 2022. In December 2020, ICEE drink sales generated $157,” he explained. “In December 2023, it grew to $650. During a three-month period from November 2023 to January 2024, sales tripled compared to what we typical sell during that three-month period—thanks to more consistency and less downtime.”

Lund, whose forecourt provides nine fuel dispensers,adds: “No doubt that any operator who doesn’t try and push cold dispensed drinks during the winter might be missing out on a great opportunity—from ice cream to ICEE. People seek it year-round. Better, more efficient equipment proved to be the difference-maker for us.”

Cleaning Up Nicely

Lund also thrives during winter with two tunnel car washes thanks to a popular, price-point-friendly subscription service that keeps people coming back—even on less-than optimal “car wash days.”

As most operators know, car washes carry a viable winter-time opportunity if the weather stars align, as vehicles need cleaning even more to remove damage from salt and corrosion.

“When it was three below zero, we’ll stop making the wash available, as people don’t use it and equipment can be compromised,” he said. “We easily make it available if it’s 10 to 15 degrees—cold but not too cold to wash cars. And if the sun’s out, people wash. I think that attitude is even stronger with those enrolled in the subscription program.”

Fueled by the subscription service that went live fourth-quarter 2021, Lund said that 10% of all wash sales result from program participants—and growing.

For instance, a car wash subscription participant during winter, who has an unlimited wash package, doesn’t fret as much about getting a wash on a less-than optimal car wash day.

Lund also knows that people disdain waiting in long car wash lines. “We found that many will leave a wash if it’s too crowded and come back later” he said. “They know they have that flexibility with the subscription program, as they can download a proprietary app.”

With friction points eliminated, customers don’t have to roll their windows down, there are no codes to enter on a PIN pad as they simply swipe and pay. If people are traveling for a month or two, they can suspend the account. (The wash has a capacity to service 150 cars per day at price tiers ranging from $7 to $12).

Pleased with the new recruits and customer retention numbers, Lund says 15% to 20% of overall store revenue in January 2024 flowed from two washes. “We had some tough car wash months in that it rained a ton. Each month the volume goes up consistently, if not modestly. I see it as consistent income rain or shine,” he said.

Fuel Fortunes

Regarding forecourt-oriented efficiency, Lund switched flags to Marathon in spring 2021, and reaped several dividends. Previously with another major brand, Lund suffered significant fuel driveoffs—not intention on the part of customers but the result of point-of-sale (POS) pump-to-store tech glitches.

“With our former fuel brand, there were issues where we had to resort to processing gas sale off line,” he said. “The way it happened is that something happened to where transactions ‘failed’ at the dispenser, even after fill ups were completed. With that, customers were asked to pay inside but instead some drove away believing the transaction was already legitimately processed.”

Since the Marathon fuel conversion occurred, transaction-oriented glitches are slim to none, he said.

No doubt, Lund and his team are ready for spring and summer merchandising trends. In the meantime, he said, they’re not sleeping on seasonal-oriented “myths” about what can sell and what can’t from December through February.

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