It doesn’t matter if you’re a science whiz, a bookworm or a history buff. If you’re a retailer, you’ve got to be a math person. Or possibly even a numbers addict—no matter how much you despised algebra in high school.

Think about it. How many times per month do you make sure your books are in order? Or that your part-timers’ hours add up properly? Or that the quantities of your latest shipments are perfect?

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the store managers among us dream about numbers in their sleep. But, are you using numbers to the best of your ability during the day?

And, the Survey Says…
I’m talking, of course, about statistics. Many people find a good statistic the most convincing evidence out there. Even if they were staunch supporters of Choice A, suddenly Choice B isn’t such a bad idea after proponents hear, “90% of people say Choice B is better.” The majority of people can’t be wrong, can they?

If you have a good statistic in your back pocket, you can use this to your advantage when talking to people in the aisles. Perhaps it would make a client feel comforted to know that they’re not alone in the fight with the scale, since 34% of adults are overweight (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Or, for those leery of trying supplements, 96% of nurse practitioners recommend supplements to their patients (according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2009 “Life…supplemented” Healthcare Professionals Impact Study).

Statistics can even offer incredible insight into yourself, especially when the participants are a lot like you. That’s one of the main reasons why WholeFoods decided 30+ years ago to ask retailers to share information about their stores, and then publish the data for everyone to read. The point was—and still is—to give savvy store managers a leg up on the competition. If the survey could tell stores about which techniques are working for the top-revenue generators and what’s slowing down the lowest earners, then managers could make more informed decisions about retailing. Whether its overall sales trends or data broken down about subgroups, all the numbers we publish are intended to help retailers run the most successful stores they can.

But, the tool only works when there’s a healthy turnout of survey-takers. We’ve been fortunate to have good participation from WholeFoods readers in the past; we appreciate the efforts of our past survey-takers and hope you will continue to participate in the survey this year and in the future.

If you haven’t participated before, we hope that you’ll do so this year. The industry needs your input so we can all learn about one of the most important aspects of our industry: independent retailers.

This year, we’ll be adding some analysis about Web sales and through a new, unique partnership with another industry company, we’ll be offering another dimension to our analysis. (Sorry for the cliff hanger, but I can’t let the cat out of the bag until the December issue!)

So when you receive the three-page fax in your store this month, please take five minutes to tell us about how your store fared over the past year. You can also access the survey at In return, we promise to give you the most accurate picture of the state of natural products retailing so you can draw conclusions about how to be a success. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2011