JCK asked June Wallach, vice president of Consumer Trends at Roper Research, New York City, and Robert Marske, special assistant for the economic planning staff at the U.S. Census Bureau, to comment on private vs. public research.
Marske: The Census Bureau provides data on communities and national population as well as on the size, location, and demographic makeup of markets. For example, if a business is entering a new community, we can provide them with the size of the local labor force and support services. And most of this information is available right on the Census Web site [www.census.gov]. Data are available right down to the zip code [including number of store types, but not sales].
Knowing the number of businesses in your area helps if you want to sell to a particular market. You can find out the nature of the population consuming the wares-the demographics-and other vendors who may carry the same products. You’ll know who you’re competing against, and if a community is under- or over-served.
Wallach: We track the reasons behind consumers’ shopping behaviors and attitudes, such as the impact of brands and status symbols. Roper polls consumers from a trend perspective-i.e., where are we coming from and where are we going? Our data include more than consumer demographics and merchandise sales. We know exactly who would enjoy buying or receiving a diamond, who wants a diamond versus a trip around the world, and what the good life means to individuals. Since we know what motivates consumers to spend, we can tell you important trends to watch-[for instance], the importance of philanthropy to consumers-so you can follow those trends in marketing and advertising.