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E-Commerce

Component ID: #ti645545369

About

Retail e-commerce sales are estimated from the same sample used for the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) to estimate preliminary and final U.S. retail sales. Advance U.S. retail sales are estimated from a subsample of the MRTS sample that is not of adequate size to measure changes in retail e-commerce sales.

A stratified simple random sampling method is used to select approximately 10,000 retail firms whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of retail firms. The MRTS sample is probability based and represents all employer firms engaged in retail activities as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Coverage includes all retailers whether or not they are engaged in e-commerce. Online travel services, financial brokers and dealers, and ticket sales agencies are not classified as retail and are not included in either the total retail or retail e-commerce sales estimates. Nonemployers are represented in the estimates through benchmarking to prior annual survey estimates that include nonemployer sales based on administrative records. E-commerce sales are included in the total monthly sales estimates.

The MRTS sample is updated on an ongoing basis to account for new retail employer businesses (including those selling via the Internet), business deaths, and other changes to the retail business universe. Firms are asked each month to report e-commerce sales separately. For each month of the quarter, data for nonresponding sampling units are imputed from responding sampling units falling within the same kind of business and sales size category. Responding firms account for approximately 72 percent of the e-commerce sales estimate and about 70 percent of the estimate of U.S. retail sales for any quarter.

For each month of the quarter, Horvitz-Thompson estimates are obtained by summing weighted e-commerce sales (either reported or imputed). Benchmarked monthly estimates are computed by multiplying each Horvitz-Thompson estimate by the carry-forward factor calculated during the most recent benchmarking. For more information on the benchmark process, click here. Estimates for the quarter are obtained by summing the monthly benchmarked estimates. The estimate for the most recent quarter is a preliminary estimate. Therefore, the estimate is subject to revision. Data users who create their own estimates using data from this report should cite the Census Bureau as the source of the input data only.

Questionnaire

The data that is used as input for the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales release is collected as part of the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS). You can find the survey forms for the Monthly Retail Trade Survey by visiting the MRTS Forms Page.

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Component ID: #ti1893811978

FAQs

Component ID: #ti1893811979

Are e-commerce sales included in current monthly retail sales estimates?

Yes. In addition, we are separately estimating e-commerce sales.

Component ID: #ti1893811980

Are the statistics produced available at the state or other sub-national level?

1. MARTS, MRTS, and ARTS

  • No. MARTS, MRTS and ARTS are designed to produce statistics at the national level only. Statistics at the state level and other more detailed geographic levels for selected data items are produced every 5 years as part of the Economic Census. For more information, please see Economic Census. Additionally, statistics on number of establishments, employment, and payroll at detailed geographic levels are released annually in the Census Bureau's County Business Patterns. For more information, please see County Business Patterns.

2. E-commerce

  • No. The Quarterly Retail E-commerce Report is designed to produce statistics at the national level only.

Component ID: #ti1893811981

What kinds of businesses are included?

1. MARTS, MRTS, and ARTS

Firms classified in the Retail Trade and Food Services sectors as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Retail Trade, as defined by NAICS sectors 44-45, includes establishments engaged in selling merchandise in small quantities to the general public, without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. Two principal types of establishments classified in retail trade can be distinguished-

1. Store retailers operate fixed point-of-sale locations, located and designed to attract a high volume of walk-in customers. They have extensive displays of merchandise, use mass-media advertising to attract customers and typically sell merchandise to the general public for personal or household use. Some store retailers also provide after-sales services, such as repair and installation; for example, new automobile dealers.

2. Nonstore retailers also serve the general public, but their retailing methods differ. Such methods include paper and electronic catalogs, door-to-door solicitation, in-home demonstration, "infomercials," selling from portable stalls or through vending machines.

Food services, as defined by NAICS subsector 722, include establishments that prepare meals, snacks, and beverages to customer order for immediate on-premises and off-premises consumption.


2. E-commerce

Firms classified in the Retail Trade as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Retail Trade, as defined by NAICS sectors 44-45, includes establishments engaged in selling merchandise in small quantities to the general public, without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. Two principal types of establishments classified in retail trade can be distinguished-

1. Store retailers operate fixed point-of-sale locations, located and designed to attract a high volume of walk-in customers. They have extensive displays of merchandise, use mass-media advertising to attract customers and typically sell merchandise to the general public for personal or household use. Some store retailers also provide after-sales services, such as repair and installation; for example, new automobile dealers.

2. Nonstore retailers also serve the general public, but their retailing methods differ. Such methods include paper and electronic catalogs, door-to-door solicitation, in-home demonstration, "infomercials," selling from portable stalls or through vending machines.

Component ID: #ti1893811982

What types of transactions are considered e-commerce sales?

E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated, over an Internet, mobile device (M-Commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online.

Component ID: #ti1893811983

What types of transactions are considered e-commerce sales?

E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated, over an Internet, mobile device (M-Commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online.

Component ID: #ti1893811984

Who uses the statistics produced from data collected?

1. MARTS, MRTS, and ARTS

  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses these data for the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates and in developing the national accounts' input-output tables.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses these data as input to its Producer Price Indices and in developing productivity measurements.
  • Trade and professional organizations use these data to analyze industry trends and benchmark their own statistical programs, develop forecasts, and evaluate regulatory requirements.
  • The media use these data for news reports and background information.
  • Private businesses use these data to measure market share, analyze business potential, and plan investments.

2. E-commerce

  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses these data for the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates and in developing the national accounts' input-output tables.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses these data as input to its Producer Price Indices and in developing productivity measurements.
  • Trade and professional organizations use these data to analyze industry trends and benchmark their own statistical programs, develop forecasts, and evaluate regulatory requirements.
  • The media use these data for news reports and background information.
  • Private businesses use these data to measure market share, analyze business potential, and plan investments.

Component ID: #ti1893811985

Are foreign sales included in the e-commerce estimate?

The e-commerce and total sales estimates include sales covering all store and non-store retail locations in the United States operated by a firm selected in the survey. Sales made to a customer in a foreign country via a U.S. web site are included in the estimates.

Component ID: #ti1893811986

Are you estimating total sales differently as a result of measuring e-commerce sales?

No. The Monthly Retail Trade Survey covers all sales of establishments primarily engaged in retail activities, including traditional retailers selling via the Internet and companies selling goods exclusively on-line. The survey excludes companies’ conducting non-retail operations such as travel, ticketing, and financial services.

Component ID: #ti1893811987

How are e-commerce sales data obtained from the firms in the monthly survey?

Firms are asked to report e-commerce sales on the same questionnaire used to collect total retails sales.

Component ID: #ti1421370747

When an e-commerce transaction is made, at what point is the sale of the item reflected in the Census Bureau's estimates?

This may vary slightly from company to company, but according to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), revenue is recognized upon shipment of the merchandise, which is when it would be reflected in the Census Bureau's estimates.

Component ID: #ti1421370746

Sample Revisions Note

Quarterly Retail E-commerce estimates will be based on the new sample effective with our annual revision release in May 2013. Since Retail E-commerce sales are estimated from the same sample used for the Monthly Retail Trade Survey to estimate preliminary and final U.S retail sales, please see our Monthly Retail Sample Revision FAQs.

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