US Census Bureau


Guide to the
1997 Economic Census

What is Retail Trade? Changes between SIC and NAICS Retail Trade classifications

What Is Retail Trade?

The Retail Trade sector (sector 44-45) comprises establishments engaged in retailing merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise.

The retailing process is the final step in the distribution of merchandise; retailers are, therefore, organized to sell merchandise in small quantities to the general public. This sector comprises two main types of retailers: store and nonstore retailers.

Store retailers operate fixed point-of-sale locations, located and designed to attract a high volume of walk-in customers. In general, retail stores have extensive displays of merchandise and use mass-media advertising to attract customers. They typically sell merchandise to the general public for personal or household consumption, but some also serve business and institutional clients. In addition to retailing merchandise, some types of store retailers are also engaged in the provision of after-sales services, such as repair and installation. As a general rule, establishments engaged in retailing merchandise and providing after-sales services are classified here.

Nonstore retailers, like store retailers, are organized to serve the general public, but their retailing methods differ. The establishments of this subsector reach customers and market merchandise with methods such as the broadcasting of ''infomercials,'' the broadcasting and publishing of direct-response advertising, the publishing of paper and electronic catalogs, door-to-door solicitation, in-home demonstration, selling from portable stalls (street vendors, except food), and distribution through vending machines. Establishments engaged in the direct sale (nonstore) of products, such as home heating oil dealers and home delivery newspaper routes, are classified here.

Excluded from this sector are governmental organizations classified in the covered industries except for liquor stores operated by state and local governments. Data for direct sellers with no paid employees and post exchanges, ship stores, and similar establishments operated on military posts by agencies of the Federal Government are not included. The basic tabulations in this report do not include data for establishments which are auxiliary (primary function is providing a service, such as warehouses) to retail establishments within the same organization.

Changes between SIC and NAICS.

This sector includes much of what was classified in Retail Trade under the SIC system. Excluded from this sector, however, are eating and drinking places and mobile foodservices (which are now in the Accommodation and Foodservices sector); pawn shops (which are now in the Finance and Insurance sector); and bakeries (which are now in the Manufacturing sector).

In addition, this sector now includes industries which were previously classified in Wholesale Trade that sold using facilities open to the general public. Prominent examples of these are automotive supplies dealers; computer and peripheral equipment merchants; office supplies dealers; farm supplies dealers; and building materials dealers.

How are Retail Establishments Classified?

In general, retail establishments are classified by kind of business according to the principal lines of commodities they sell (groceries, hardware, etc.), or the usual trade designations (drug store, cigar store, etc.). There are 12 major industry groups in retail trade in NAICS. Definitions of each category can be accessed by clicking on the title.

Click on the title to access the definition for each category. Click on the NAICS code to access the next lower level of detail.


1997 NAICS Title

44-45 Retail Trade
441 Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers
442 Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores
443 Electronics and Appliance Stores
444 Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers
445 Food and Beverage Stores
446 Health and Personal Care Stores
447 Gasoline Stations
448 Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores
451 Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book, and Music Stores
452 General Merchandise Stores
453 Miscellaneous Store Retailers
454 Nonstore Retailers

Back to Retail Trade menu Next topic