Sources of information - Business Environment

Researching the business environment can be a daunting task, given the extensive amount of information and statistical data available. To help in this direction the final section of this chapter outlines some of the key national and international information sources which are readily accessible to both students and businesses. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it gives a good indication of the wide range of assistance available to researchers and of the different formats in which information is published by government and non-government sources for different purposes. Much of this information is available in an electronic as well as a print format, with the latter a particularly good starting point for students of business.The development of the Internet is also of key significance for research purposes.

Statistical sources
Statistical information is an important component of business research and students need to be aware of what is available, particularly as some data turn up in the most unexpected places. Three key guides in locating statistical information are:

  1. National Statistics the official UK statistics site. A portal to UK officially produced statistics. Some information is available on-line, at other times you will be referred to print publications, including the ones listed below.
  2. Sources of Unofficial UK Statistics.Provides details of a large number of unofficial statistical publications from a wide variety of organisations (e.g. pressure groups, trade unions, professional associations).
  3. World Directory of Non-Official Statistical Sources. Published by Euro monitor and akey guide to non-official sources in selected countries outside western Europe, the latter being covered by the European Directory of Non-Official Statistical Sources. The Directory concentrates particularly on sources dealing with consumer goods, consumer trends, key industries and national economic and business trends. It has a subject and a geographical index. Also available on the GMID web service. Some of the main statistical sources, arranged in alphabetical order, are discussed below:
  4. Annual Abstract of Statistics. Published by the ONS, this is an authoritative source of official statistics arranged under various headings, which include population, production, energy, transport, trade and public services. Figures usually cover a ten-year period and are presented in tabulated form. There is a detailed alphabetical index at the end.
  5. Consumer Europe. Produced by Euro monitor and available on CD-ROM and via the Internet. This is a pan-European source of marketing statistics with the emphasis on consumer goods and consumer trends. The information examines the main product groups and includes predictions on future levels of consumption. It is split into two regions ‘Consumer Western Europe’ and ‘Consumer Eastern Europe’.
  6. Datastream. A finance and economics on-line database, produced by Pri mark International. Accounts for public companies around the world, as well as share prices and stock market indices are available. The economics databases cover avast range of current and historical international economic series, including money supply, inflation and interest rates for 150 countries. Data are taken from many statistical sources, including OECD and the UK government, central banks and unofficial statistical sources.
  7. Economic Survey of Europe. Published annually by the United Nations (UN). The survey includes data in various forms on individual countries and on geographical groupings in Europe and identifies trends in areas such as agriculture, industry, investment and trade. Tables and charts include written commentary.
  8. Economic Trends. A monthly publication y the ONS and a key guide to the current economic indicators (e.g. prices, unemployment, trade, interest rates,exchange rates). The figures span several years, as well as the latest month or quarter, and tables and charts are provided. A quarterly supplement covering the balance of payments and the national accounts was added in March 1993. There is also an ‘Economic Trends Dataset’ and an ‘Annual Supplement’ with data going back to 1946.
  9. Economist Intelligence Unit country reports. Reviews the business environment for countries, and is divided into six major regions of the world. Quarterly reports summarize major events, issues and trends and provide key statistics. These are available on paper, CD-ROM or the Internet.
  10. Employment in Europe. Contains an excellent overview of employment issues in Europe. Published annually by the European Commission, with a different focus in each issue.
  11. Europa world year book. Published by Europa, London. An annual book which has an A–Z listing of all countries. Each entry contains a political and historical overview of a country, key statistics, contact details and basic facts about leading organisations, political parties, the media, diplomatic representation, etc. It is also available online.
  12. Europe in figures. An overview of Europe, with lots of graphs and tables. A simple introduction, but published irregularly. Only goes to 2001.
  13. European Economy. Published by the European Commission and concerned with the economic situation and other developments. The journal includes data on economic trends and business indicators and provides a statistical appendix on long-term macroeconomic indicators within Europe. There are two issues and three reports per year.
  14. European Marketing Data and Statistics.An annual publication by Euro monitor providing statistical information on the countries of western and eastern Europe. The data cover a wide range of market aspects including demographic trends, economic indicators, trade, consumer expenditure, retailing and often show trends over a 21-year period. The information is provided primarily in a spreadsheet format and there is an alphabetical index.
  15. Family Expenditure Survey. A comprehensive breakdown of data on households, including income, expenditure and other aspects of finance. The survey has very detailed tables and charts mostly for the latest year and some regional analysis is provided. Published by The Stationery Office (TSO).
  16. Financial Statistics. A monthly publication by the ONS on a wide range of financial aspects including the accounts of the public and non-public sectors of the economy. Figures cover the latest month or quarter together with those of previous years.
  17. General Household Survey. A continuous sample survey produced by the ONS, based on the financial year of the general population. The survey spans a wide range of household-related aspects including housing, health, education and employment and is widely used as a source of background information for central government decisions on resource allocation. Since 1994 it has been renamed ‘Living in Britain: Results of the General Household Survey’. NB:There was a break in the years 1997/8 and 1999/2000.
  18. International Marketing Data and Statistics (IMDAS). An international compendium of statistical information on the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania published annually by Euro monitor. Information on demographics, economic trends, finance, trade, consumer expenditure and many other areas usually covers a 21-year trend period, and an alphabetical index is provided. Available on CD-ROM ‘World Marketing Data and Statistics’.
  19. Labour Market Trends. Formerly the Employment Gazette, this is a monthly publication by the ONS that contains labour market data and a number of feature articles.
  20. LabourMarket. LMR.Published monthly and containing information and data on labour market trends and other issues such as training.
  21. Marketing Pocket Book.Published by NTC Publications. An essential source of statistics and information. Published annually. Sister publications includeEuropean Marketing Pocket Book and Retail Pocket Book.
  22. Monthly Digest of Statistics. The key source of current information on national income, output and expenditure, population, employment, trade, prices and a range of other areas. Previous as well as current data are provided. Published by ONS.
  23. New Earnings Survey. An annual publication in parts by ONS. It contains detailed statistical information on earnings by industry, occupation, region, country and age group. Available on-line via NOMIS.
  24. National Income and Expenditure. Now known as the United Kingdom National Accounts (or ‘Blue Book’). Published annually by ONS, it contains data on domestic and national output, income and expenditure, and includes a sector by-sector analysis. Figures often cover ten years or more and an alphabetical index is provided. Available on CD-ROM and on-line.
    • OECD Economic Outlook. A periodic assessment of economic trends, policies and prospects in OECD and non-member countries. Published twice a year, the Outlook includes articles as well as figures, tables, charts and short-term projections, and looks at developments on a country-by-country basis. Available for subscribers on the Internet.
    • OECD Economic Surveys. An annual publication by the OECD providing individual country reports of the world’s advanced industrial economies. Very useful. Available on CD-ROM.
    • Overseas Trade Statistics with Countries outside the European Community. Published quarterly by TSO and containing statistical information on trade with non-EU countries. Available on the Internet.
    • Quest Economics. A collection of macroeconomic and country risk data from a variety of sources. Available as an on-line, Internet or CD-ROM database. Ceased updating in 2004.
    • Regional Trends. An annual ONS publication providing a wide range of information on social, demographic and economic aspects of the United Kingdom’s standard planning regions, together with some data on the sub-regions and on the EU. The guide includes a subject index. Available on the Internet.
    • Social Trends.Another annual ONS publication, in this case looking at different aspects of British society, including population, education, environment, housing, leisure and transport. It provides a more detailed analysis of data produced for the Annual Abstract of Statistics and includes a large number of charts and diagrams. Information often spans a 1520-year period and an alphabetical subject index is included. Available on the Internet.
    • United Kingdom Balance of Payments.Known as the ‘Pink Book’. It is a comprehensive guide to the United Kingdom’s external trade performance and contains a wide range of statistics covering a ten-year period. Available on the Internet
    • United Nations Statistical Yearbook. Written in both English and French, theYearbook is a detailed international comparative analysis of UN member countries. Data cover a wide variety of topics, including international finance, transport and communications, population, trade and wages, and a World Statistical Summary is provided at the beginning.
    • World Economic Outlook. Published twice a year by the IMF in various languages. It is an analysis of global economic developments in the short and medium terms. It gives an overview of the world economy and looks at current global issues.

Other useful statistical sources

  1. Many government departments publish statistics on their own websites. They include:
    (a) Department for Education and Skills Statistics. Good starting point for statistics on lifelong learning, education and training
    (b) Bank of England Includes information, news and full text publications.
    (c) You might also wish to look at: Department of Trade and Industry includes SME statistics and regional competitive indicators; Office of the e-Envoy e-commerce and internet access statistics
  2. Europa. The European Union on-line with links to statistics and publications, including the Euro stat site.
  3. The Data Archive. The Data Archive (University of Essex) is a specialist national resource containing the largest collection of accessible computer-readable data in the social sciences and humanities in the UK. Users must register; minimal charges apply for data delivery. Most of the large survey data can be accessed online free by academic researchers via MIMAS.
  4. MIMAS. Based at the University of Manchester, this is another data center which provides on-line access to census information, international data and large-scale survey information (e.g. OECD, IMF).
  5. Sources of further information. By selecting a gateway site, you will often find links to just the information you need much more quickly than by just using Google.
    (a) Business information on the Internet. A gateway maintained by KarenBlakeman, including links to websites covering most aspects of business.
    (b) Useful UK Statistics sites from the University of Glasgow Library. Very thorough summary.
  6. (c) Subject guide to statistics at Warwick. Although this listing also includes specialist databases (which may not be available without payment) it is a very clear and comprehensive list Information sources

Information on the different aspects of the business environment can be found in a variety of sources, including books, newspapers and periodicals. These often provide a wealth of contemporary data and commentary which can be located relatively easily in most cases, using specialist databases designed to assist the researcher. While an increasing amount of information is available on the Internet, the fastest and most reliable way of finding what you want tends to be to use newspapers and magazines, which are often available electronically (and which are loved by librarians!). In the last few years more and more abstracting databases have moved over to the Web, and now also offer the full text of articles, there by reducing the amount of time it takes to research a topic. ProQuest Direct can be used to trace information, but there are other alternatives (e.g. Lexis and Nexis). It is even possible to customize your business databases to cover the most popular titles in a particular library. But remember, the situation tends to change on a regular basis, so you need to keep up to date. Some key sources in this area are discussed below:

  1. Business and Industry. Covers trade and business news titles world wide and is available as an on-line, subscription web database.
  2. Business Source Premier. Covers over 2500 full-text titles and abstracts many others in all areas of business, economics and management.
  3. Clover Newspaper Index. Now known as Newspaper Index, a fortnightly publication covering all the main quality dailies as well as the Sunday papers. The list of articles is arranged in alphabetical order by subject and provides a readily accessible means of tracing topics of current interest.
  4. Emerald. An Internet version of all the journals published by MCB University Press; includes some keys titles like the European Journal of Marketing. Also includes abstracts from many other journals in the Emerald reviews section.
  5. FT McCarthy. Available as a CD-ROM, on-line or Web database, McCarthy covers business and management articles from over 50 newspapers and trade publications in the UK, Europe and further a field. Its business focus make it an excellent starting-point for any research, since it usually contains relevant key stories.
  6. General Business File International. Available as a Web database (under the name Infotrac General Business file) this database covers a wide range of academic and trade journals.
  7. IMID/MICWeb. Based on the holdings of the Institute of Management’s book and journal article databases which form part of the largest collection of resources on management in Europe, focusing on all aspects of management theory and practice. MICWeb is updated monthly, as is the IMID CD-ROM. Business students can join the Institute of Management and have access to the library services.
  8. PROMT. Another database available on-line, on the Web or on CD-ROM. Covers trade and business news sources worldwide.
  9. ProQuest Direct (also known as ABI/Inform). One of the best business databases because of its range and the quality of its abstracting and information retrieval. Many businesses now have access to the full text of many articles as well as summaries.
  10. Scimp. The selective co-operative index to management periodicals (hence‘scimp’), published ten times a year and a useful source of information on European publications on management issues.
  11. The Times. The text of the newspaper is available on CD-ROM, on the Web and from specialist databases.
  12. Other useful sources

    1. Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin. An assessment of economic developments in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. It includes articles and speeches, together with general commentary on the economy, and is available from the Bank of England website.
    2. Bank Reviews. Quarterly publications by some of the leading clearing banks and often available free on request. These include Barclays Economic Review and Lloyds Economic Bulletin.
    3. Business Studies Update.Published annually by Hidcote Press and a very useful source of discussion on contemporary business issues.
    4. CBI Industrial Trends Survey. A quarterly guide to the state of UK manufacturing industry based on questionnaire responses by businesses. It provides a useful insight into business prospects and an indicator to future changes.
    5. Company Annual Reports. Available on request from all public companies and some private ones. Many are available on-line through company websites or from the following sites:
    6. (a) Annual reports of the world’s biggest companies. Provides links to the annual reports of the largest companies worldwide.
      (b) Carol World. Good source of free company reports, international in scope.
      (c) Corporate information. Gateway providing international coverage of company information including industry sector profiles, economic data and country and regional-specific searches.
      (d) UK Company researcher. UK company information. Has Chamber of Commerce directories so is particularly good for regional information. Also includes industry profiles and links to company websites.
      (e) Vrisko. This site includes a searchable database listing the Home Pages of allUK PLCs with an Internet presence.
      (f) Wright research center. This site includes information on 18 000 companies in fifty countries. In many cases it includes ten years of financial data.
    7. Consumer Goods Europe.Replaces Marketing in Europe. It is a monthly publication by Corporate Intelligence on Retailing and contains detailed studies of the markets for consumer products in leading European countries.
    8. Economics Update. Another annual publication by Hidcote Press and designed to provide a review and discussion of contemporary issues relevant to students of economics and business.
    9. Ernst and Young’s International Business Series. Entitled ‘Doing business in ...’, it contains a wide range of information on business conditions in different countries and is a very useful reference source. The information is updated fairly regularly Price Water house Cooper has a rival publication that is also very informative
    10. European Business Review. A pan-European journal published by MCB University Press. It includes articles, editorial comment, news reports and a discussion of recent publications. The journal also incorporates the New European which looks at the more cultural, political and environmental developments within Europe. Has CD-ROM and on-line facilities.
    11. European Journal of Marketing. Another publication by MCB University Press, relevant particularly to students of international marketing. It includes abstracts in French, German and Spanish and offers an on-line service.
    12. European Policy Analyst Quarterly. Formerly European Trends. Published by the EIU, it is a quarterly review of key issues and business developments in a European context.
    13. Income Data Services. A regular series of studies and reports on pay and other labour-market issues (e.g. team working, child care, redundancy), containing valuable up-to-date information and some statistical analysis. Available on the Internet.
    14. Journal of Marketing. A quarterly publication by the American Marketing Association and comprising articles together with recent book reviews in the field of marketing.
    15. Kelly’s Business Directory. A substantial volume giving details of the addresses and main products of UK businesses. Available viaand on CD-ROM.
    16. Key British Enterprises. A multi-volume compendium from Dun and Bradstreet giving details of Britain’s top 50000 companies. Companies are listed alphabetically and are also indexed by trade, product and geographical location. Available on the Internet; also on CD-ROM.
    17. Kompass UK. A multi-volume directory produced in association with the CBI and providing details on UK companies, including names, addresses, products, number of employees, and so forth. Directories for other countries are also available on the CD-ROM ‘Kompass CD plus’.
    18. Lloyds Bank Economic Bulletin. A bi-monthly publication covering a topic of current interest in an easily accessible form. Internet site currently being changed.
    19. Management Decision. Published ten times a year by MCB University Press. Looks at management strategy and issues. Available on CD-ROM and on-line.
    20. Marketing.A weekly source of facts and articles on various aspects of marketing, presented in a journalistic style. Available on the Internet.
    21. Marketing Intelligence. Also known as Mintel Marketing Intelligence and an invaluable source of information and statistics on a wide range of products. Reports cover market factors, trends, market share, the supply structure and consumer characteristics, and frequently include forecasts of future prospects. Available on-line.
    22. Retail Price Index Headline Rate. A site maintained by Devon County Council giving a table with the RPI (headline rate), month by month for the last 30years. Available at.
    23. Sell’s Product and Services Directory. A useful directory in a number of sections listing products and services, company details and trade names. Produced in two volumes and available on CD-ROM.
    24. The Economist. A standard reference source, published weekly and examining economic and political events throughout the world. It is an invaluable publication for business students and regularly contains features on specific business-related topics. It has a useful update on basic economic indicators. Available on the Internet.
    25. The Times 1000. Essentially a league table of UK top companies, with information on profitability, capital employed and other matters. Additional information is also provided on the monetary sector and on leading companies in other countries. Published annually and available on CD-ROM.
    26. UK Online. The gateway to all UK government information on-line.
    27. WARC Advertising and Marketing Knowledge. The World Advertising Research Center’s Advertising and Marketing Knowledge database is a vast collection of case studies and articles from authoritative sources. It covers all areas of advertising, marketing and media activity. The database also contains demographic information on a wide range of countries.
    28. Who Owns Whom. An annual publication which identifies parent companies and their subsidiaries. It is a very useful source of information for examining the pattern of corporate ownership in the United Kingdom. Companion volumes are also available covering other parts of the world.
    29. A final comment
      When researching a business topic you are particularly recommended to use library catalogue sites, especially the British Library catalogue (BLPC) and COPAC, which is the combined catalogue of major British academic libraries. You might also want to check references on the Internet bookshop sites such as Heffers, the Internet bookshopor the Book Place, as well as Amazon.co.uk (which most people know about).


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