Industry Information part 2: Trade Associations


In an earlier post (Industry Information part 1: Library Databases), I reviewed industry information available to library patrons through subscription databases.  Using these databases researchers can find industry overviews, trends, market share rankings, performance data, news events, and more.   This new post will introduce industry researchers to the importance of locating and mining trade association websites and journals to find similar information.

What is a trade association?  A trade association is an organization of businesses operating and competing in the same industry who band together to accomplish tasks for their mutual benefit.  These task might include monitoring and lobbying Congress, tracking customer data and activity, conducting research, or publishing timely news events.  Trade associations  generally charge fees for membership to accomplish these tasks,  and often they will post membership directories available for free on their sites.  Such directories can be valuable tools for locating major competitors within a specific industry.  Locating trade associations and their addresses and website URLs is easy using the National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States  (see State and Regional Associations of the United States  for regional associations).  The internet offers some less comprehensive listings of trade associations, such as Wikipedia’s List of Industry Trade Groups in the United States.

Trade association websites can vary in the amount of information they make available to non-members, still it is worth the trouble of locating and browsing a trade association site to see what information you can glean for a particular industry of interest.  For example, free items I’ve retrieved include a 2011 Profile of the Pharmaceutical Industry posted by PHRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; state statistics on the restaurant industry posted by the National Restaurant Association, and industry statistics and trends on pet ownership available from the American Pet Products Association.  If you don’t find any useful information, try emailing questions to the contact person listed on the site.  Often times, trade associations like the opportunity to promote themselves and will be willing to send researchers information or recommend other sources to try.

Trade association journals are a particularly rich resource for industry news and competitive information.  Special issues, often published around the same time each year, frequently present industry overviews, forecasts and rankings of competitors.  Two examples of this type of information include  the article A Recovering Market from the April 15, 2011 issue of Beverage World which discusses the state of the beverage industry as of April 2011 and Barron’s annual listing of the Top Wealth Managers published in their September or October issues.  To locate special issues for a particular industry, use the Special Issues Index posted by the James J. Hill Library in St. Paul, MN.  To retrieve the full text of a desired article, select the Krupp Library’s Journals List and type in the title of the journal containing the special issue.  The Journals List will  provide links to the database(s) carrying the journal in full text; click on the link to retrieve a listing of available journal issues.

Ask a librarian to learn more about how to locate and use trade association websites and journals to find industry information!