- 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
- 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
MRTS covers 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.
No. MRTS is 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
The Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) is conducted to provide an up to date indication of sales at retail and
food services stores and inventories held by retail stores (MRTS only). The surveys provide reliable measures of
current economic activity that are essential to an objective assessment of the need for, and impact of, a wide range
of public policy decisions.
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies
in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data
related to the U.S. business economy. For additional information, please see NAICS
No. Respondents are instructed to exclude sales taxes in their reported monthly sales. However, excise taxes are included.
No. A firm is classified by its major source of receipts by establishment. Firms are instructed to report their total sales for
a given month for all retail establishments even if they include some non-retail receipts. For example, if a firm
operates an establishment engaged in both retail and wholesale operations, but the majority of sales are from the
retail operation, the establishment is classified as retail.
Because estimates are based on a sample rather than the entire population, the published estimates may differ
from the actual, but unknown, population values. In principle, many random samples could be drawn and each would give
a different result. This is because each sample would be made up of different businesses who would give different
answers to the questions asked.
Common measures of the variability among these estimates are the sampling variance, the standard error, and the
coefficient of variation (CV). The sampling variance is defined as the squared difference, averaged over all possible
samples of the same size and design, between the estimator and its average value. The standard error is the square root
of the sampling variance. The CV expresses the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers.
For example, an estimate of 200 units that has an estimated standard error of 10 units has an estimated CV of 5
percent. The CV has the advantage of being a relative, rather than an absolute, measure and can be used to compare
the reliability of one estimate to another.
The Census Bureau takes its commitment to confidentiality very seriously. It constantly pursues new
procedures, technologies, and methodologies to safeguard individual data. Every person with access to person
or business data - from the Director on down - is sworn by Title 13
to protect confidentiality and is subject to criminal penalties if they do not. Tight computer security and
strict access and handling procedures are followed.
Following generally accepted accounting principles, sales from gift certificates are included in the retail sales
of firms at the time the gift certificate is redeemed.
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.
Yes. In addition, we are separately estimating e-commerce sales.
Generally, e-commerce divisions of brick-and-mortar companies would be included in electronic shopping and
mail-order houses as long as they do not fulfill e-commerce orders from their stores (companies would provide
separate information to us for their brick-and-mortar stores vs. their e-commerce division). This is similar to
how companies would split reporting between two distinct brick-and-mortar divisions (a company that owns grocery
stores and department stores for example).