US Census Bureau


Guide to the
1997 Economic Census

How Have Retail Trade Data Been Used?

A major food store chain uses census data as the basis for its estimates of potential weekly food store sales in the trade area for each of its stores--estimates that allow calculation of market share and other measures of performance for each existing store, and support evaluations of prospective sites for new stores. Since each store's trade area is defined in terms of census tracts and block, areas too small for retail trade statistics to be available, the chain calculates per capita weekly (PCW) food store sales from retail census data and population estimates for counties, then multiplies the appropriate PCW times the estimated population of the target trade area to estimate potential food store sales. They adjust PCW to reflect national changes in food store sales since the last census using Monthly Retail Trade.

An entrepreneur hoping to market an edible stirring straw for mixed drinks looked to retail and service census data about his potential customers, including liquor stores, hotels, and restaurants.

The publisher of Television News, a magazine designed to be given away free at retail stores, wanted the number of retail stores by ZIP Code in order to design sales territories. The ZIP Code data on CD-ROM proved especially useful, since they differentiated stores by sales and employment size; the publisher's sales people had found that owners of small stores were more willing to listen to their pitch than were owners of large stores.

The editor of a personal finance newsletter used historical census data on patterns of retail sales during the 1930's along with more recent statistics to compare depression years with current conditions.

A manufacturer of automobile parts and supplies, who had previously marketed his products primarily through new and used car dealers, was impressed by figures from the Merchandise Line Sales subject report, which showed that automobile supply stores, gas stations, and department stores sell far more automobile parts and supplies than do car dealers. Using data from the Geographic Area Series on the geographic distribution of these stores, he developed a new marketing program.

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