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Purpose

The Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) produces national estimates of total annual sales, e-commerce sales, sales taxes, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total operating expenses, gross margins, and end-of-year accounts receivable for retail businesses located in the United States. Additionally, in years ending in “2” and “7,” the survey also generates detailed operating expenses estimates through the  Business Expenses Supplement (BES).

Previously, this mandatory survey also produced national estimates of annual sales, total operating expenses, and e-commerce sales for accommodation and food service firms in the United States. Beginning with the 2016 survey year, however, the accommodation and food service data are now collected and published through the Service Annual Survey (SAS). Prior to the 2017 survey year, the Annual Retail Trade Survey also generated national estimates of inventories held outside the United States for retail businesses located in the United States. 

ARTS provides estimates that are more timely than those generated via the Economic Census, which is only conducted in years ending in “2” and “7,” and more detailed than those produced through the Advance Monthly and Monthly Retail Trade Surveys (MARTS and MRTS), which are conducted each month.

Frequency

This survey is conducted annually.   

Coverage

The ARTS sample covers employer businesses that are classified in the retail trade sector and located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. ARTS excludes data for businesses located in the United States territories. Firms without paid employees, or nonemployers, are included in the estimates through imputation or administrative data provided by other federal agencies.

Content

ARTS requests data on total annual sales, e-commerce sales, sales taxes, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total operating expenses, and end-of-year accounts receivable for retail businesses located in the United States. In years ending in “2” and “7,” it collects detailed operating expenses information through the Business Expenses Supplement

Products

Estimates are released approximately 15 months after the reference year has concluded and are published at an industry level. The industries used in the ARTS data products stem from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Select the “Data” option from the menu on the left to view all of the ARTS data products.

Uses

Many individuals and organizations use the data produced from the Annual Retail Trade Survey for a variety of reasons. The following list describes some of the most important uses of the ARTS data:

  • ARTS serves as a benchmark for the estimates produced from the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS).
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) uses the estimates to derive industry output for the input-output accounts and for the gross domestic product (GDP).
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses the data as input to its Producer Price Index (PPI) and in developing productivity measurements.
  • The Federal Reserve Board uses the accounts receivable data in monitoring retail credit lending.
  • Private businesses use the estimates in computing business activity indexes.
  • Other government agencies and businesses use this information for market research, product development, and business planning to gauge the current trends of the economy.

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