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Growers know the value of a good ag retailer. Good retailers provide not only products and services to growers, but also information and recommendations ranging from the right herbicide to use and which variety of corn seed is best for their land, to custom application of crop protection products. The influence of retailers on grower decisions is obvious, and Doane Agricultural Services has established a portal to tap into that knowledge base. Over the past year, Doane has recruited 1,300 retailers across the country to participate in various market research studies that Doane conducts. The Retailer Research Panel consists of a database of information on retailers ranging from products and services sold, type of operation and Internet/e-mail access, to approximate sales by product category.

John Appleton, Doane vice president says, "Several crop chemical manufacturers have utilized the panel quite successfully during the past year." Appleton notes one manufacturer who commissioned a survey among cotton retailers, which was fielded by e-mail, with returns processed and the final report delivered within five days at a very economical cost. With 55 percent of panel members receiving questionnaires via e-mail, turnaround time has improved dramatically.

Another leading crop chemical manufacturer utilized information collected from panel members to understand why some retailers are reluctant to recommend the company's product in a group of Midwestern counties. The company also was able to uncover what retailers favorable to the product perceived as positive product attributes.

Appleton says Doane's Ag Retailer Research Panel offers input suppliers and manufacturers the ability to get quick, reliable information from a representative cross-section of retailers involved in supplying inputs to growers of major row crops as well as many specialty crops. AM

Joe Michaelree is market research manager at Doane Agricultural Services, St. Louis, managing all custom and multi-client market research projects. He can be reached at 314/372-3511 or via e-mail at

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