Thoughts after a recent industry supply measurement project

We have just helped an important supplier to newsagents collect data from some selected newsagents. What they are trying to do is get their distributions better! Since we have a reputation for supplying good clean data and we are always willing to help, we have done many such jobs.

There is clearly a problem as anyone who has walked into a few newsagencies back office could quickly see in the unsold stacks of newspapers and magazines. The hidden problem is the goods that could have been sold but were not supplied.

As far as getting distributions mathematically right only so much can be done. For example look at the money spent in the finance world today with some of the smartest people working on the most sophisticated systems out, yet clearly they have no clue what is happening. Much less what will happen! Much cannot be predicted including retail sales.

Still it is frustrating that at the end of many of these studies there is so little to show. My thought after doing so many of these is that the most common source of resistance to improving is the sales and marketing department. They are just too comfortable with the existing system. It evolved when there was only patchy and out of date data available. If someone complains, which rarely happens as most newsagents have long ago given up they have ready excuses for everyone. I am sure you have heard many for example she is a trouble maker, someone misled them, they had too many copies, not enough copies to go round, how could anyone predict what happened etc etc etc.

Because everyone now has low expectations, the existing system gives these sales and marketing people a position of power and safety. Yet from a mathematical view they are the wrong types of people to administer these statistical projects, they are too much penny pinchers, are too close to their customers to get the distance required for such a project and with the best of intensions kill these projects off.