The need to know

August 1, 2005 By    

Piece by piece, the propane industry is finally accumulating vital data about itself, its markets and its competition in detail it has never known.

 Patrick Hyland
Patrick Hyland

It’s about time. It’s been 95 years since chemist Dr. Walter Snelling began investigating the reasons that gasoline was evaporating at such a rapid rate. His research included building a still that could separate the gasoline into its liquid and gaseous components and discovered that the evaporating gases were propane, butane and other hydrocarbons.

Today, propane is an $8 billion industry in the United States alone. Yet until recently, our industry’s performance went largely untracked.

How many people do we employ? What financial impact do we have on the national economy? How safe are our operations? How do we compare to other fuels? What is the breakdown of retail gallons sold into the residential market? Where is the greatest opportunity for sales growth? What do our customers think about our product and service? Why do others choose competing fuel sources over us? What are the industry’s best practices?

The answers to these and dozens of other fundamental questions are vital because they provide insight to the complex factors that drive our industry’s success. It’s the kind of data our industry has never consistently measured, and is invaluable for assessing performance and guiding future strategies.

This lack of data was the driving force behind LP Gas Magazine’s creation of our annual State of the Industry survey and report six years ago. It’s also why we partnered up with Propane Resources a few years back to run industry feedback through our In the Know feature in every issue.

The Propane Education & Research Council has poured millions of dollars to ask those critical questions of propane professionals, customers, academicians and market research professionals to measure performance and need. That information becomes the bedrock for prioritizing how the industry’s dollars get spent.

But these projects are only as good as the responses from the front lines, and our industry has a less than stellar track record when asked to share details of individual operations. Are there really that many secrets we need to guard?

Attached to this month’s issue is a four-page survey for propane retailers. It asks questions about marketing, showrooms, customers, equipment purchasing, support from the industry and business operations. All responses will be anonymous.

Please take a moment in these weeks before the chaos of the heating season is upon us and share your thoughts and experiences. The collective information will help us help the industry as a whole learn more about itself.

The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete, and the return mailer is prepaid. Plus, we will raffle off three prizes as a way to say thank you for your time and insights.

Patrick Hyland

Editor

phyland@advanstar.com

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