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Industry Research Basics

Tips for finding industry analysis, industry financial ratios, market research, industry news for industry research.

Financial ratios are often used to compare a company against an industry average or other companies  in order to benchmark or measure a company’s performance.  Industry ratios are often useful when creating the financial components of a business plan.  This article discusses several resources that can be used to find industry and company financial ratios.  

All resources listed below are subscription resources.  If you are not affiliated with Ohio University, check with your local library for access, as many of these resources are commonly held subscriptions at academic and public libraries.

Tools for Larger Industries & Companies

  • Allows you to do an advanced search for companies with the same SIC or NAICS code and then create a comparison report.
  • There are a number of different ratios that can be used as comparison criteria when creating this user-defined report.
  • The report that is created can be exported into a Microsoft Excel format.  
  • Alternatively, you can use the Competitors Tab in Mergent to build a list of companies and compare their ratios.
  • The best way to find comparison data is to first search for a particular company, and then click on the link for “Ratio Comparisons” on the left side of the company information page.  
  • The data in D&B Hoover's will compare your company against the industry, against the sector, against the stock market as a whole.
  • Use the Companies & Markets tab to first search for a company. 
  • Next, click “Reports” and choose the “Ratio Comparison Report” to get a company’s ratios compared to industry averages.
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Tools for Smaller Industries & Companies

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Industry Ratio Books

If you are benchmarking a small, private company, or are looking to start a new company, the resources in this section would be most useful to you.  I recommend that you look at all three resources as they do not all cover the same industries.  Also, when using the resources, make sure you are comparing similar sized companies.  Each of the books below will give different figures for each industry, based upon the average asset size of the companies in the industry.  The resources below do not have ratios for individual companies, only industry averages. 

Note: Ohio University Libraries no longer subscribes to these three books, but I left the information here as a reference for other researchers, as many libraries still carry these books if they do not subscribe to the more expensive services like Bizminer.  

Almanac of business and industrial financial ratios
  • Format:  Reference Book
  • Location: Alden Library no longer subscribes.  Replaced by Bizminer.  Check with your local library for access.
  • One volume, updated annually, organized by NAICS codes
RMA annual statement studies
  • Format:  Reference Book
  • Alden Library no longer subscribes.  Replaced by Bizminer.  Check with your local library for access.
  • One volume, updated annually, organized by NAICS codes
  • Availailable for purchase here
Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios
  • Format:  Reference Book
  • Alden Library no longer subscribes.  Replaced by Bizminer and Key Business Ratios Online.  Check with your local library for access.
  • Multiple volumes, updated annually, organized by SIC codes