One of the most important rules of business is “know your competition”. If you own a restaurant or a hair salon, then your competition is probably mostly local. But if you manufacture or sell products that can be shipped around the world, then your competition is probably global.

Industry Canada's Trade Data Online can help you find the data you need to understand where your competition is coming from. Using the “Search by Product” option, you can learn who is competing with you in Canada and abroad.

  • Start by taking a look at which countries Canada buys from. This will help you figure out who you will be competing with in the Canadian market and internationally. Select your product and create a report on total imports for all countries (detailed).

    For example, if your company makes vitamins, your report would tell you that Canada imports most of its vitamins from the United States, China, Switzerland, Germany and France. Overall, Canadian imports of vitamins increased 23% between 2005 and 2010. China, Switzerland, Italy and India are experiencing significant growth in the Canadian market, while purchases from Germany, Japan and Korea are declining. Armed with this information, you can research vitamin companies in the growth markets to understand more about your competition.

  • If American companies are big contenders in your industry, you can narrow your research by finding out which state your toughest competition is coming from. If you create a report on total imports to Canada from the United States using the “Distribution by State” option, you can find out which states are selling the most product to Canada.

    About half of Canadian imports of vitamins from the United States come from New Jersey. If you look at New Jersey-based vitamin companies, you will probably identify some of your biggest competitors in the Canadian and international markets.

  • In addition to competing with international companies, you may also be competing with other Canadian companies at home and in export markets. If you create a report on total exports by province/territory, you can see which parts of the country your competition is coming from.

    Two-thirds of Canadian exports of vitamins come from Ontario. Quebec and British Columbia are also significant international competitors in the vitamin market with 19% and 14% shares, respectively. You can research companies in those provinces to determine who your Canadian competitors are.

The data on its own doesn't tell you much about your competition. But it can help you narrow and focus your research. Once you know which countries and provinces/territories your competition is coming from, you can research companies in those areas to get to know your competition better.