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Market Research Handbook



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Section 1: User’s guide: how to profit from the Market Research Handbook

The Market Research Handbook provides a broad range of socio-economic statistics to reveal market trends in Canada, as viewed through the prism of Statistics Canada data. For market researchers and analysts alike, the Handbook puts statistics to work to highlight emerging trends, position products, and gain a competitive edge – in short, to profit from the facts.

From megatrends to metropolitan areas

The broad selection of business, economic and social statistics contained in this handbook reflects rapidly changing lifestyles and consumer needs in Canada today. According to David Foot, author of the widely acclaimed book, Boom, Bust & Echo, “Demographics explain about two-thirds of everything.” 1  In the Handbook you will find population trends showing characteristics such as age, education and ethnicity – key variables reflecting the demand for goods and services catering to Canada’s increasingly diverse and aging society.

As well as population statistics portraying Canada’s changing age structure, the Handbook contains information on business demographics, which depicts the business population by industry, by size of business and by urban area. In addition, selected macroeconomic statistics provide the economic setting for analysis of recent trends, such as the impact on household incomes and expenditures of the growth in output and employment, low levels of inflation and interest rates, and improvement in Canada’s current account and fiscal positions.

Market conditions are not merely a national phenomenon, however; they also reflect the particular characteristics of different regions and localities. To address the geographic dimension, the Handbook provides selected information for each of the provinces and territories and the majority of Canada’s largest urban areas. Business planning also involves the assessment of future prospects. To cater to this requirement, the Handbook includes an outlook section consisting of averages of selected private-sector economic forecasts and Statistics Canada’s population projections.

How to use the Market Research Handbook

Given the wealth of information it contains, the Market Research Handbook can be a bit daunting at first glance. In this section, we show how the Handbook provides a framework for analysing the market forces at work in the Canadian economy (figure 1.1 "Framework for analysis of market trends").

Market forces represent the interaction of supply and demand, and are the product of a wide variety of socio-economic relationships affecting purchasing power on the one hand and production on the other. The Handbook presents a broad range of social and economic indicators that reflect the underlying forces shaping both demand and supply.

Figure 1.1 ("Framework for analysis of market trends") groups the different kinds of economic and social indicators into key categories for analysing market forces. It distinguishes between sources of consumer demand (stemming essentially from households, or persons), sources of supply (originating essentially with businesses), and macroeconomic variables, reflecting the broader economic environment. The table also shows key socio-economic indicators that have a strong bearing on demand or supply – demographic variables, income statistics (purchasing power for consumers and profits for businesses), and consumer demand and supply.

Figure 1.1
Framework for analysis of market trends
Framework for analysis of market trends

Key socio-economic indicators

Demographics: People come first

Retail markets are essentially about people. Section 2 of the Handbook highlights demographic statistics to show the origins of demand. Population data contain a wealth of information about the strength of demand for a wide variety of household goods and services. Trends from the latest Census show not only population growth, but also vital information for marketers such as increased ethnic diversity, the prevalence of different types of family structure and the aging of society, all of which have a direct impact on consumer demand.

Labour market and revenue : How much do Canadians make?

Employment and earnings are the key variables affecting purchasing power. In Section 3, the Handbook contains information from the Labour Force Survey showing changes in the number of people employed in each of the provinces and territories. In addition, this handbook provides a comprehensive picture of the purchasing power of Canadian consumers through trends in average weekly earnings, total employment earnings, investment income, and receipts from government programs (such as employment insurance).

Consumer demand: What do Canadians spend their money on?

If you want to know what people actually spend their money on, you can find it in Section 4 of the Handbook, which provides information from the Household Spending Survey on expenditure patterns for different income groups and major urban areas. The Handbook also shows the weekly food bill for households, while changes in consumer tastes can be gauged from shifts in per capita food consumption and the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Another important indicator of household expenditures is represented by the types of homes we live in and the goods we own. Section 5 show how many people own their own homes, and how many Canadian households have luxury goods such as air conditioning and camcorders, have three cars or use new technologies such as the Internet and cellular phones.

Supply chain

The counterpart to consumer demand is the supply of goods and services. Supply consists not only of domestic production, but also imports and the entire distribution network. Section 6 of the Handbook focusses on data related to the gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of the value of production of all goods and services in the economy. Section 7 contains import and export data, reflecting the degree of import penetration or export orientation for major categories of goods. At a more detailed level, Section 8 shows industrial data for manufacturing and selected consumer goods and service industries. This section also documents the distribution of goods through retail and wholesale trade.

Business income : How profitable are Canadian businesses?

Just as household income is a measure of a consumer’s standard of living, so profits are the acid test of business success. Section 6 includes data on profits, profit margins, and rates of return, providing industry averages that businesses may compare against their own operating characteristics.

Markets are local

Even in an era of globalization, retail markets are essentially local. While national patterns set the stage, business people must be in touch with the realities of the markets in which they actually operate. The Handbook addresses the geographic dimension by providing key data for each of the provinces and territories and, in section 9, for the majority of Canada’s largest urban areas.

Business demographics for business-to-business marketing

This edition of the Market Research Handbook contains information on business demographics from Statistics Canada’s Business Register. In sections 8 and 9, you will find information on the number of businesses in different industries and in each of the major urban areas, as well as the number of small and medium-sized businesses. They provide a measure of market potential for different types of industrial goods and office equipment, as well as the number of business establishments operating in specific industries and metropolitan areas – important data for business-to-business marketing and for any prospective new business.

Additional information

Although the Handbook contains an impressive amount of detail, we have had to be selective. Some types of information are available in massive quantity and huge detail in terms of geography, industry, time frame, or some other characteristic, but because of space limitations the Handbook is restricted to information at a fairly aggregate level.

To help users satisfy their unique market research needs, the Handbook documents source information and provides help lines. Each table shows the data source, including the title and catalogue number of the source publication. The Handbook also shows the telephone number of Statistics Canada advisory services who will, with pleasure, direct you to the contact division or person for obtaining more detailed information about the data or special tabulations (available on a cost-recovery basis). In addition, to facilitate access to the latest data through CANSIM (Statistics Canada’s computerized Canadian Socio-economic Information Management database), the Handbook provides related data matrices for many of the tables.

On-line access to CANSIM

CANSIM is a multidimensional database containing more than 36 million time series regrouped in approximately 2,700 tables. Since its inception in 1969, CANSIM has been Statistics Canada’s prime source for disseminating up-to-date statistical information on the Canadian economy. Real-time access to the wealth of data available from CANSIM is now available on-line through the Statistics Canada Web site at Not only are the data updated on the very day that new values for these series are released, but a longer time frame is provided for most of the series referenced in the Market Research Handbook. Many of the data tables in the Market Research Handbook are derived from CANSIM. Although, every effort has been made to use the most current information available, due to the dynamic nature of CANSIM updates, the latest data available in CANSIM may differ from the data used in the tables and analysis when the publication was produced.

Access to Statistics Canada’s electronic publications at no charge

Effective April 24, 2006, all electronic publications on Statistics Canada’s Web site were made available free of charge. The Agency has been steadily increasing the volume of free content on its Web site to respond to the information needs of Canadians. This latest move makes available at no charge more than 150 electronic publications for which fees were previously charged. Statistics Canada will continue to charge for print versions of publications and for other electronic products and services, such as CD-ROMs, specialized data tables and customized retrievals from CANSIM and the Canadian International Merchandise Trade database.