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Topics @ a Glance - Retail
Using Retail Statistics


Monthly Retail Trade statistics are classified as a "main economic indicator". They are also considered a coincident indicator as the series tends to closely reflect current economic conditions. Quarterly results are fed into the calculation of Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE), making a significant contribution to Australia's Gross Domestic Product. Trend and seasonally adjusted estimates are utilised by analysts in both the public and private sectors with the trend estimates showing the evolution of the underlying behaviour of the series.


Businesses contributing to the Retail Trade series are classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) 2006 (Cat. no. 1292.0).

The Retail Trade series aggregates businesses into six broad industry groupings and 15 sub-groupings, further detail can be found in 'Defining Retail Trade' section in the Explanatory Notes of the publication. The groupings are designed to meet user requirements and to ensure the reliability of estimates. The retail industry groupings do not necessarily correspond with the three digit level groups defined by ANZSIC.


Reliability of Estimates

There are two types of error possible in estimates of retail turnover:
  • Sampling error which occurs because a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all establishments in the survey is given by the standard error. Sampling error may be influenced by the sample replacement that occurs in the first month of each quarter. This may increase the volatility of estimates between this month and the previous month especially at the state by industry subgroup level.
  • Non sampling error which arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. The most significant of these errors are: misreporting of data items; deficiencies in coverage; non-response; and processing errors. Every effort is made to minimise reporting error by the careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient data processing procedures.
To assist users in assessing the reliability of estimates, Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no.8501.0) provides relative standard errors for each data series which can be found in 'Standard Errors' section in the Explanatory Notes of the publication.


The scope of the Retail Business Survey is all employing retail trade businesses who predominantly sell to households. Like most Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) economic surveys, the frame used for the Survey is taken from the ABS Business Register which includes registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) pay-as-you-go withholding (PAYGW) scheme. Each statistical unit included on the ABS Business Register is classified to the ANZSIC industry in which it mainly operates. The frame is supplemented with information about a small number of businesses which are classified to a non-retail trade industry but which have significant retail trade activity.

The frame is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses, businesses which have ceased employing, changes in industry and other general business changes. The estimates include an allowance for the time it takes a newly registered business to get on to the survey frame. Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the ATO cancels their Australian Business Number (ABN) and/or PAYGW registration. In addition, businesses with less than 50 employees which do not remit under the PAYGW scheme in each of the previous five quarters are removed from the frame.

To improve coverage and the quality of the estimates and to reduce the cost to the business community of reporting information to the ABS, turnover for franchisees is collected directly from a number of franchise head offices. The franchisees included in this reporting are identified and removed from the frame.

Further information on how to use and interpret Retail Trade statistics can be found on the Noticeboard which features a variety of information papers relevant to the estimates

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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