Here at the library, we field a lot of the same kinds of question about business. Most of our patrons are in various stages of planning a small business, so as a result, we tend to use some of the same books over and over again to solve the same problems. “Essential Sources” will be a semi-regular series of posts to profile the resources that we use routinely and just couldn’t get along without.
Our first source starts us off with statistics. Yes, feel free to groan a little. We don’t think statistics makes for fun light reading, either, but finding a statistic is a do-or-die kind of question for researchers. Either someone collects it and we can find it somewhere…or no one does and we can’t and if you still need it, you’ll have to come up with a way to do it yourself.
Many statistical sources can be intimidating to use, with abbreviated column headings, tables that span multiple pages, and distressingly long lag times between data collection and the dissemination of the final set of numbers. We have some great sources in the Business Center that helps to get around most of those problems.
Household Spending, edited by New Strategist Publications, is based on data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Consumer Expenditure Survey, an ongoing nationwide survey of–you guessed it–household spending. The data covers every type of household and tracks everything from small purchases to big-ticket items. It does not include information about government, business, or institutional spending, so if those groups are in your potential market you must seek what you need elsewhere. There is a lag time of two years, but that seems reasonable if you consider the time it takes for the BLS publish the CE, then for New Strategist to extract the data they want. The primary advantage of using Household Spending instead of the original is ease of use. The BLS publication is aimed at professional economists, not your average small business owner. New Strategist’s version, on the other hand, is a bit easier for the average user and provides things like a glossary and full explanations of how to read the entries. The book is organized by major product or service category. Tables show the age of the householder, household income, household type, racial or Hispanic origin of the householder, and lots of details about what the householder spends on those products or services.
Next up for “Essential Sources” will be other New Strategist titles, Best Customers and American Men and Women.