Census data can level the playing field for small businesses

April 03, 2018

Local governments and small businesses could save thousands of dollars a year in consulting and research fees if they just used information that's already publicly available, according to research from the University of Waterloo.

A new Waterloo study found that information commonly paid for by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and local governments, such as consumer spending data that can help businesses decide where to locate and determine market demand, can actually be obtained for free.

"Data such as the census information from Statistics Canada could easily be used in conjunction with a company's own information to aid in decision making," said Derek Robinson, a professor of geography at Waterloo. "The spatial pattern of storing and marketing opportunities can be mapped out using this information, which can help small businesses avoid costly decisions that may not be easy for them to recover from."

As part of the study, Robinson and Andrei Balulescu, a former Waterloo graduate, used publicly available information as well as data from private industry in the home improvement retail sector in Ontario. They found that by combining this information, they could easily identify the spatial pattern of consumer spending on home improvement products and could identify geographic hot spots and cold spots related to people's spending habits.

The study broke the province into close to 20,000 units and was able to generate data on 23 individual product categories related to home improvement and how spending in these categories varied by household income. The information was verified using proprietary sales data provided by a big-box industry partner in the home improvement retail sector to show that the estimates were indeed accurate.

"SMEs account for 99.7 per cent of all firms in Canada and employ 54.8 per cent of all payroll persons," said Balulescu. "This method can be applied to any sector, and could help businesses pick the right location, based on market demand for new stores, and help to prevent the roughly 7,000 businesses that fail each year from having to close their doors."

"This tool can help to put smaller businesses on an equal footing with large retailers, who have more capital to spend on gathering businesses intelligence. Furthermore, it could help local economic development departments prove to companies there is both market and opportunity in their region."

The study, titled, 'Comparison of methods for quantifying consumer spending on retail using publicly available data', including detailed maps of "hot and cold" spots of home-improvement spending can be found in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science.
-end-


University of Waterloo

Related Data Articles from Brightsurf:

Keep the data coming
A continuous data supply ensures data-intensive simulations can run at maximum speed.

Astronomers are bulging with data
For the first time, over 250 million stars in our galaxy's bulge have been surveyed in near-ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared light, opening the door for astronomers to reexamine key questions about the Milky Way's formation and history.

Novel method for measuring spatial dependencies turns less data into more data
Researcher makes 'little data' act big through, the application of mathematical techniques normally used for time-series, to spatial processes.

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.

Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.

Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.

Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.

Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.

Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.

Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.

Read More: Data News and Data Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.