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To provide detailed industry measures of retail company activities. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this survey and provides for mandatory responses.


Retail companies with one or more establishments that sell merchandise and associated services to final consumers (North American Industry Classification System Sectors 44-45). 1999 was the first year the Annual Retail Trade Survey was collected on a NAICS basis. In 2000, consumers spent more than an estimated $3.0 trillion at retail establishments.


Companies provide data on dollar value of retail sales, sales taxes collected, inventories, method-of-inventory valuation, cost of purchases, and account receivables balances.


Annually since 1951 (except 1954); reported data are for activity taking place over the prior calendar year. Data collection begins the fifth week after the close of the year. New samples are chosen approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in the 1999 survey year.


A mail-out/mail-back survey of about 22,000 retail businesses with paid employees, supplemented by administrative data to account for nonemployer businesses. The employer sample is drawn from the Business Register, which contains all Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) and listed establishment locations.

Firms are first statified by major kind of business and estimated sales. All firms with sales above applicable size cutoffs are selected into the survey and report for all their retail industry EINs. In a second stage, unselected EINs are statified by major kind of business and sales, and randomly selected from each strata.

The sample is updated quarterly to reflect employer business "births" and "deaths"; adding new employer businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey and deleting firms and EINs when it is determined they are no longer active. There is about a 9 month delay before new firms can be represented in the sample. To account for births during this interim period, data are imputed for all EINs that go out of business but are still active on the IRS mailing list.


The Annual Benchmark Report for Retail Trade and Food Services is released annually each spring. This report contains estimates of annual sales, per capita sales, gross margins, monthly and year-end inventories, sales/inventory ratios, merchandise purchased, gross margin/sales ratios, and accounts receivable balances for the U.S. by kind of business. Comparable statistics are shown for the previous year, along with year-to-year percentage changes. Monthly data, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, for the most recent 10 years are also presented.


These data are widely used throughout government, academic, and business communities. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the estimates as an input for estimating Gross Domestic Product. The Bureau of the Census uses the data to benchmark the monthly sales and inventory series. The Federal Reserve Board uses accounts receivable balances for measuring consumer credit.

Retail merchants use data to determine market share. Market research firms use the estimates to analyze market trends and to determine the direction of the economy.


Provides the only current data on gross margin and accounts receivables owed to retail firms.


o E-Stats - 2000 E-commerce Multi-sector Report

o Advance Monthly Retail Sales Survey

o Monthly Retail Trade Survey

o Census of Retail Trade

o  Retail                                   o Next Program
o U.S. Economy o Economy Overview

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
	Service Sector Statistics Division
        Last Revised: May 3, 2002

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