“The plural of anecdote is not data.” I first encountered that fine phrase courtesy of Ben Goldacre, whose weekly Bad Science column in the Guardian, and book of the same name, is a must read.

It encapsulates so much of what is wrong about many debates, with anecdotes traded back and forth in lieu of any meaningful facts and figures.

That’s why exercises such as Him’s Cash and Carry Tracking Programme, which FWD is delighted to endorse this year, are so important.

You will find elsewhere in this issue of ProWholesaler an overview of the main findings (pages 20-21), but when I had sight of the report a couple of things leapt out at me.

Despite the gloomy reports about the economy you see and hear in the media (often based on anecdote!), at cash and carry level retailers and caterers are more than happy with what is on offer.

More and more customers are visiting cash and carries, and they’re visiting more often as well, doing more top-up shopping. Both spend and frequency are up and levels of satisfaction have increased for the third year in a row.

On measures such as staff helpfulness, ease of finding and availability of products, quality of fresh produce and prices, customers say wholesalers are doing a good job.

Without studies such as Him’s, which surveyed 3,300 visitors to 14 cash and carry depots around the country, it is difficult to say with any certainty whether wholesalers are delivering what their customers want. The importance of such statistical feedback cannot be overestimated.

That’s why I conducted an exercise earlier in the year among FWD members to ask them what they thought of the work of the Federation in terms of the value each of the things we do has for their businesses.

The findings were pleasing on one level, as they showed broad support for the work the FWD has done over the past few years, not least in representing the interests of wholesalers to Government and affecting positive change on areas such as duty fraud on alcohol.

It is also clear from the survey that there are some things FWD needs to do differently.

The FWD’s future strategic direction will be influenced by what our members tell us is really important to them.

But without data, we would be just guessing what those things are.

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