Data Analysis Boosts Business – Go Figure!

According to tourism marketing organisation Visit Florida, overseas visitors made 11,553,400 trips to the Sunshine State last year, constituting 12.2 per cent of the total, while visits from other US states totalled 79,453,300.  Of the latter, 2,224,692 came from Louisiana.

Of the overseas visitors, 91 per cent cited “shopping” as among the most popular holiday activities, while 36 per cent of American visitors enjoyed their “dining experience”.

While the sheer size of those numbers is amazing enough, what is really impressive is the detail – the SunshineState is one of the world’s top tourism destinations, and with that kind of data at the Floridian fingertips, it’s not hard to see why.

And what has all this got to do with Dorset?  The answer to that is that modern business life, here as elsewhere, is increasingly dependent on the use of “robust” statistics.  In a sense, the numbers themselves don’t matter – although they have to be accurate – it’s what one does with them that counts.

While the tourism industry is generally fairly good at adding up the figures (although there are some notable exceptions), it is often less proficient at analysing and interpreting them.

It is relatively easy to understand why midweek business isn’t up to much in February, but why was the second Saturday in April so quiet?  How did compare with the same Saturday last year?  What caused the shortfall, and what can be done to avoid it next year?

The explanation is often quite simple – the finals of television’s Britain’s Got Talent, a Premiership football team taking on the local “minnows” in some Cup competition, or emergency road works just around the corner can all dent a restaurant’s business, for example. And there is no way of legislating for such one-off disruptions.

However, if historic data reveals some sort of trend, it makes sense to analyse the cause of the hiccup and do something about it.  If your ladies who lunch consistently disappear to Ascot or the Henley Regatta, maybe it’s worth considering a pre- or post- promotion – the best hat wins a bottle of bubbly – to make up for lost revenue.

And it’s not all about the tourism industry.  On March 4 this year, on my last-minute quest for ready-made Shrove Tuesday pancakes, the first three local supermarkets had sold out completely; I ended up making my own, from scratch.  It’s not a huge dent in their profits, but it is a dent that could have been avoided with a more thorough analysis of historic demand.  As one of those supermarkets incessantly reminds us, “every little helps”.

Using the right statistics, in the right way, can help businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors stay one step ahead.  And the more statistics one has at one’s disposal, the better – and more profitable – one’s analysis is likely to be.

To see best practice at work, a quick trip to Florida might well be in order.  The SunshineState may have welcomed 79,453,300 visitors last year, but there’s always room for one more.

Editor’s note:  For further information, please contact Simon Scarborough on 07801 571357 or at