Looking for resources to research market size of a very small industry.
February 5, 2008 11:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I find the size of market and market share of various small companies in a small industry?

In particular I'm looking at the online photography equipment rental sector, although a general resource would be best. Are there any databases that show market size for various (very) small industries? Or that show market share within these industries? How do people find market size when writing a business plan upon starting a business in a tiny industry?
posted by mamessner to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If they're publicly traded companies then raw sales results have to be included in SEC filings.

If they're privately held, then sales results are proprietary, and you can't find out unless you're one of the owners, or unless they reveal that info, which most do not. Privately held companies are not required to reveal that information to the public (i.e. to you). They're definitely not required to reveal that information to real or potential competitors.

There are industry bodies and/or market research firms which make estimates, but those are at best educated (or uneducated) guesses. Only the management of the actual companies know for sure, and usually they're not telling.

How do people find market size when writing a business plan upon starting a business in a tiny industry?

They consult those industry bodies, or market research firms, or they do a lot of scientific wildass guessing on their own. (Which is a polite way of saying, "They make it up.")
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:37 PM on February 5, 2008

Stephen makes an important distinction between public and private companies. Its relatively easy for a publicly traded firm (still non trivial as some folks make their livings doing such analysis'), but for smaller companies you might consider augmenting your research via Dun and Bradstreet.

You can pick up a lot of credit, sales and other data from D&B, which would help you determine relative size. If you've looked over your industry carefully enough you'll already know who the big players are and can focus your D&B inquires accordingly.

While metrics like sales may not be useful (Stephens point above about disclosure), credit data definitely will help you understand the scale a given entity is operating at.
posted by Mutant at 12:56 AM on February 6, 2008

See if they are on http://hoovers.com they offer some information for free.
posted by bleucube at 3:18 AM on February 6, 2008

IBIS World generally provide excellent general market information.

D&B can't access data from private companies (other than what you can get from public sources) unless the company releases that information.

I'd hit your local university library and see what you can find using their online subscriptions.

Also try your local, state/provincial or federal government's small business or trade department. My local State Development Office provides excellent support and information for just this purpose.

Finally, I am always amazed by how helpful people in the industry can be in helping you out especially if you are entering an area that you'll not be competing directly with them. Is there an established business similar that you'd feel comfortable approaching? The worst is that they could tell you to go away.

Good luck.
posted by dantodd at 3:29 AM on February 6, 2008

This is a tough question without a very easy answer.

To research sizes of specific companies, the Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database can be really helpful. They provide estimates of a variety of business figures, including revenue, for U.S. companies over $1 million in sales. The Boston Public Library provides free access to this database and others, and I suspect many other large public and university libraries do, too.

Another great resource is asking a librarian directly. Many business school libraries have "Ask A Librarian" services, and they could probably direct you to resources that can help you with your research. Cornell's Johnson School is just one that provides this service, at no cost!

Good luck.
posted by scottso17 at 8:57 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for the info. I'm an MBA student, and I have access to D&B - Never realized what that was for. I'm still struggling to find the info I'm looking for, though: In particular, how much is spent on photography equipment rental and how much of those sales are accounted for by 8 large websites.

Maybe I'll post a separate question when I get the details right.

- Michael
posted by mamessner at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2008

Michael - you're in a great place if you're a MBA student. Go to your library and ask for help! When I was in b-school, the librarians would even schedule hour-long appointments to help you do research of this sort. And -- they love helping out. They are an under-sung resource.
posted by scottso17 at 4:14 PM on February 7, 2008

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