Guessing the market: targeting for your business plan

N writes:

I am working on a business plan for my women’s contemporary clothing line. I’m stuck at the market analysis portion of my business plan as I cannot seem to get my hands on the information required to complete it. I just need to find the current market share for womens contemporary wear, industry sales revenue, demographic data showing spending patterns within these categories, market trends, etc. Where can I find such market analysis without paying a data research company hundreds on dollars?

I did a search for “total apparel sales 2010”, “apparel sales 2010” and got several promising returns so I wonder what kind of search terms people are using. In using the year “2010”, I intended to find all news related to apparel sales published in 2010 as opposed to data that applied to 2010 because it is too recent to be widely free (as in, US Government data). It’s one of those things you watch, courtesy of a subscription to WWD or the WSJ. By the way, this article with data from NPD Group has most of what you’re looking for.

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a subscription, you can get their respective daily headlines via email for free. If you see something that looks interesting such as “Luxury sales increase x%” (keep in mind they usually include comparative data of related sales to include contemporary etc) search the web over the next few days and I’ll bet a blogger somewhere will have cited the article in question and dropped a few key points. That’s what I have done. It works for nearly everything but the priciest news like Just Style and The Birnbaum Report. Those are too pricey for most bloggers to pay for. The other option is to set a google alert for search terms or even “NPD Group” since they frequently send out press releases.

It is at this point I intended to turn the tables to explain why much of this information is useless for a business plan so you may as well crib from someone else or make it up but as time grows short today, I’ll have to delay annoying anyone until tomorrow. Then I will follow up with why forecasts based on market size are essentially useless with a round up of past entries published here on the almighty revered and hallowed business plan. Hopefully one can glean something useful twixt the two.

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  1. A couple of items I would suggest is visiting your local library and seeing what kind of databases they subscribe to. There can be a wealth of information gathered from them. Standards & Poor has data information, but you do need to keep in mind that retail is such a broad category that it can be difficult to pinpoint information. Another valuable source is OTEXTA (Office of Textiles and Apparel). Sometimes you need to combine different sources of information to get a clearer picture. USA Trade Online has statistics on both the import and export of goods that are updated regularly.

    I would suggest working with your local Small Business Development Center, which is funded through the Small Business Administration. They can help point you in the right direction for some of the data, and may have direct access to data at their center. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to help you out. My email address is

  2. Naa Tackie says:


    Thanks so much for responding. I’ll try your search strategy and see what I come up with.
    I am curious to find out why most of this market analysis is unnecessary for a business plan. I can’t wait to read your write-up!

    Regardless this works in my favor as I want to get the business plan writting project over and done with and concentrate on actually executing the plan.


    Great pointers! I will try your strategies out as well.

    Thanks All,


  3. Teri says:

    Wanted to put in my 2cents because I thought some people might need it.

    N, I totally understand where you are coming from because I was stuck in that same situation too! I did the following (most of you probably have too):

    (1) Scout the internet for free information from popular business and marketing websites. The problem is, everyone was saying different things. This was frustrating for me because that’s just the type of person I am. I want all of my information to be consistent.

    (2) Get expert help from marketing professionals. BOoHOOo I’m broke. I gotta save my money to develop garment samples instead. I couldn’t afford $1,000 + marketing reports or to pay someone for help (really wanted to though).

    BuuhUt then I remembered a conversation I had with a marketing firm over the phone. I asked “How reliable is your information?”. Part of her answer included “We get our information from various private and government sources”. Key Word “Government”. I’m not a marketing firm so correct me if I’m wrong but most marketing firms probably get their information from the government anyway. So then, I started doing my own research using government websites. Turns out… You can find all of the information you need and for free!

    The government samples millions of people and businesses and posts their findings online. They started collecting data in 1790! It of course advanced since then. Names, etc… are of course kept private. You can find things like:

    (1) How much do consumers pay for your SPECIFIC type of product?
    (2) What are retailers paying for your SPECIFIC type of product?
    (3) Your market size
    (4) Your consumer size

    and so much more. Here are three of the websites I use the most:, and BLS.Gov. Look around and you will see for yourself. It took me 3-4 months just to learn how to navigate all the websites, learn their terms, accounting and data information. I’m probably just slow so it could take you less time but it wasn’t easy for me. I have just started a blog on helping other entrepreneurs find this information for free too. If you need additional help, you can watch my youtube tutorials. I pretty much show you where to find information and you chose the information you want to study.

    Hope that helps!

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