This issue of Electrical Wholesaling marks an anniversary. It's the 25th consecutive year the magazine has provided readers with local, regional and national sales and demographic data used to build sales forecasts.

Former Chief Editor Andrea Herbert developed EW's Market Planning Guide in 1979. It was a brilliant idea that consumed nearly 50 pages in the November 1979 issue. Over the years, it won Andrea industry-wide notoriety as an expert in market planning and several Jesse H. Neal Awards for editorial excellence.

In describing the intent of the Market Planning Guide in this column 25 years ago, George Ganzenmuller, the magazine's editor, wrote, “It is safe to predict that electrical distributors will face growing pressures from suppliers to meet desired market penetration percentages. They are definitely a part of the wave of the future. If all a distributor can do in response is to say that the potentials are too high and his market share as reported is too low, he is unlikely to make much of a case.

“Far better if, by careful market research, he is able to refute and supplant a supplier's trading area analysis with data of his own which is far more specific as to the levels of customers' and prospects' purchases. And that is what this issue of Electrical Wholesaling is all about.”

Twenty-five years later, that's what this issue is still about. The numbers sure have changed. Back then, Andrea forecast 1979 sales of electrical products at $21.4 billion. As you will see on page 16 of this issue, industry sales today are well over $80 billion.

Another commonality in publishing the Market Planning Guide over the years has been dealing with the time lag in the sales and demographic data provided by the U.S. Department of Census. While the Market Planning Guide uses this government data as a benchmark, EW's editors survey electrical distributors each year on their actual sales, and then “bring forward” the government data to develop sales forecasts.

Frustration over the timeliness and relevance of Census data isn't uncommon. David Seiders, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Washington, D.C., said at the recent NAHB Construction Forecast that the Census Department has vastly underreported population growth and household data because of the lack of data from recent immigrants.

Seiders also said there's trouble with the Census estimate of $177 billion for annual residential-remodeling expenditures. A forecast by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University pegs this market at $225 billion. That's a huge difference. (As former Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois reportedly once said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.”)

All joking aside, this example illustrates why it's so tough to pin down the exact size of any market. EW's editors realize that with publishing sales forecasts comes a very serious responsibility to our readers. We know you use the Market Planning Guide's sales forecasts to help plan your company's future growth; set commissions for salespeople; decide where to deploy resources; and employ many other sales, marketing and management strategies. We make our best effort with a survey forecasting method that has proven itself over time to give our readers a realistic snapshot of the size of this industry. As Sen. Dirksen might have said, it's real money we are talking about here.

EW Welcomes David Gordon and Neil Gillespie as Contributing Writers

With all this talk about data and marketing, it's a great time to announce a strategic partnership between Channel Marketing Group and Electrical Wholesaling. Channel Marketing's David Gordon and Neil Gillespie will be writing articles for EW on strategic marketing, promotional strategies and related topics. In addition to providing EW's readers with expanded marketing coverage, EW will be the publication for sponsor Channel Marketing Group's 2005 Electrical Industry Marketing Conference (EIMC), scheduled for Aug. 7-9 in Chicago. Learn more about this partnership on page 4.