Historically it has always been assumed that the hardest part of new product development is to find an idea/product that appeals to the consumer. However, now that is only half the battle, and maybe even less than half, as markets have become much more competitive, and the retail trade has become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This is a problem that is faced in nearly all developed countries in the Western world. In the next few pages I will cover more fully the reasons why trade research is now so critical in the development programme, how, when and where trade research can help in the development process, and how it should be organised. Also some of the inherent problems of trade research and thus the pitfalls to be avoided. An important start point is to define what trade research is. Trade research is the means by which an understanding of the commercial customer can be gained. It is not confined purely to the retail trade as many people would think, but also covers business-to-business research. It can be used to find out more facts about a market, or to understand the needs or attitudes of the commercial customer. Currently very little such research is carried out and what is done is often very superficial. New product development is not confined to the consumer; new products and services are being developed every day for the commercial customer; therefore, although the emphasis of this article is largely on consumer products and services, much of it can also be applied to business-to-business research.