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Online Resources for Business Research (August 2016): Industry Research Resources

Celia Ross

Industry Research Resources

Some of the most commonly encountered types of questions by business researchers involve hunting for industry information.  Industry research can be particularly confusing and difficult due to the fact that small private companies are often important players and the industries themselves may not be well defined.  Keep in mind that searching trade journals and cobbling together information from multiple sources will be required for some of the more obscure or emerging industries.  Most packaged, up-to-date industry information is available only through fee-based resources, but an alert searcher can locate freely available information from trade associations and industry publications.

Many of the multidisciplinary databases described above contain industry reports, worth recapping here.  Gale Cengage’s Business Insights: Global and Gale Virtual Reference Library offer the newest editions of the Encyclopedia of American Industries (CH, Jul’08, 45-5928), Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries (CH, Feb’08, 45-2966), and Encyclopedia of Global Industries (CH, May’08, 45-4755).  MarketLine features global coverage of multiple industries, with many reports featuring the standard analytical frameworks taught in business school curricula.  NetAdvantage provides access to its popular Industry Surveys—excellent resources for “getting smart quick” on approximately fifty-five industry segments.  Each survey includes sections on trends, key ratios and statistics, and a glossary, as well as a How the Industry Operates section—especially helpful to researchers and students trying to quickly understand an industry.  Some subscription levels of ProQuest’s ABI/Inform offer industry reports from key publishers, including Canadean and First Research.  EBSCO’s Business Source products also contain industry profiles from MarketLine and Business Monitor Online (described below).

Freedonia Focus Reports cover a number of industry segments, including consumer goods, construction, packaging, metals and minerals, and life sciences.  US industries can be browsed by category, and some other countries are covered but not in all industry areas.  Reports are generally around thirty pages long, highlighting market environments and industry structure.

The IBISWorld database is a standout when it comes to niche industry coverage.  Broad North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code-defined industries are covered in categories such as construction, but most sectors are broken into more targeted components (e.g., flooring installers in the US), while even narrower in focus are over seven hundred reports on everything from cell phone repair, locksmiths, and juice and smoothie bars to psychic services or tattoo artists.  Reports present an outlook for the industry and a supply chain overview, including connections to upstream/downstream concerns whose performances may impact (or be impacted by) industry changes.  A specialized Industry Risk Ratings Report component as well as enhanced screening and exporting capabilities can be added to a license.

The Plunkett Research Online home page presents a section called Industry Research Centers, with some expected industries (e.g., airlines, hotels and travel, energy and utilities, telecommunications), more specialized ones (alternative and renewable energy, entertainment and media, outsourcing and offshoring, green technology, or sports), and some industries newly added (MOOCs, manufacturing and robotics, etc.).  Some centers focus on size or location (e.g., middle market), while one for private companies covers close to two thousand firms headquartered in the United States, Europe, Canada, or the Asia-Pacific region.  Each center offers sections on market research and trends, statistics, companies, and executives, as well as industry associations and an industry-specific glossary.

A database that focuses on industry financial analysis is BizMiner.  Industry-level benchmarks for many industries are covered, including financial ratios.  BizMiner can be used to research the start-up risk of an industry as well as its vitality compared to other industries.  Industries can be searched by keyword or SIC or NAICS codes, and users can generate income and expense ratio sheets as well as other benchmark reports to assist in researching industry profitability and risk.

Covering key library holdings of the Harvard Business School, the Baker Library/Bloomberg Center Research Guides are helpful for identifying specific information resources for a particular industry.  Industries covered are diverse and include consulting, hedge funds, entertainment, and pharmaceuticals, along with resources for China and India.  Guides highlight industry overviews and point to resources on companies, careers, statistics, and news related to the industry.  Users may have access through their own institutions to online resources or books and scholarly or trade journals identified in the guides.  Some relevant trade journals publish special reports that are sometimes freely available online.

While not a starting point, the US Census Bureau’s Economic Census (conducted every five years in years ending in two and seven) is a vast source of top-level industry information.  Reports released in off years include the Annual Retail Trade Survey and the Annual Survey of Manufactures.  The latter provides sample estimates of statistics for all manufacturing establishments with one or more paid employees.  Industries are ordered by NAICS code, and data are broken out for each state and the District of Columbia.  The Annual Survey also includes statistics on employment, payroll, value added by manufacture, cost of materials consumed, value of shipments, detailed capital expenditures, supplemental labor costs, fuels and electric energy used, and inventories by stage of fabrication.