Retail Business Survey

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    Retail Trade is a key and timely indicator measuring changes in the Australian economy. The series which includes one service industry is an important component of final household consumption expenditure in the National Accounts. The Retail Trade Trend, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0) publication presents monthly trend estimates of the value of turnover of retail businesses classified by industry, and by state and territory.

    The March, June, September and December issues also present quarterly chain volume estimates of turnover.

    Major changes to the Retail Business Survey were implemented in the July 2008 month. An article "Changes to monthly retail trade statistics" in the July 2008 issue provide consolidated information about these changes.

    From the July 2000 reference month, turnover includes the Goods and Services Tax.

    Retailers, industry associations, economists, governments and media use these statistics to analysis consumer spending behaviour and, in conjunction with other economic indicators, to help assess current Australian economic performance. Quarterly retail trade estimates is an important contributor to final household consumption expenditure which is a key component of the National Accounts.

    The scope of the Retail Business Survey is all employing businesses with at least one establishment classified to one of the retail or selected service industries in the following list.

    Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC06) codes in scope of the Retail Business Survey

Food retailing

Supermarket and grocery stores and non-petrol sales (convenience stores) of
selected fuel retailing
Supermarket and grocery stores (4110)
non-petrol sales (convenience stores) of selected Fuel retailing (4000)

Liquor retailing
Liquor retailing (4123)

Other specialised food retailing
Fresh meat, fish and poultry retailing (4121)
Fruit & vegetable retailing (4122)
Other specialised food retailing (4129)

Household goods retailing
Furniture, floor coverings, houseware and textile goods retailing
Furniture retailing (4211)
Floor coverings retailing (4212)
Houseware retailing (4213)
Manchester and other textile goods retailing (4214)

Electrical and electronic goods retailing
Electrical, electronic and gas appliance retailing (4221)
Computer and computer peripheral retailing (4222)
Other electrical and electronic goods retailing (4229)
Hardware, building & garden supplies retailing
Hardware and building supplies retailing (4231)
Garden supplies retailing (4232)

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing
Clothing retailing
Clothing retailing (4251)
Footwear and other personal accessory retailing
Footwear retailing (4252)
Watch and jewellery retailing (4253)
Other personal accessory retailing (4259)

Department stores (4260)

Other retailing
Newspaper and book retailing
Newspaper and book retailing (4244)
Other recreational goods retailing
Sport and camping equipment retailing (4241)
Entertainment media retailing (4242)
Toy and game retailing (4243)
Pharmaceutical, cosmetic and toiletry goods retailing
Pharmaceutical, cosmetic and toiletry goods retailing (4271)
Other retailing n.e.c
Stationery goods retailing (4272)
Antique and used goods retailing (4273)
Flower retailing (4274)
Other-store based retailing n.e.c (4279)
Non-store retailing (4310)
Retail commission-based buying and/or selling (4320)

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
Cafes, restaurants and catering services
Cafes and restaurants (4511)
Catering services (4513)
Takeaway food services
Takeaway food services (4512)

    The source of the survey's coverage is the ABS Business Register which is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's Pay As You Go Withholding scheme. Non-employing businesses are therefore excluded from the survey.


    Conceptual framework
    Not applicable.

    Main outputs

    Retail Trade, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 8501.0)
    • Trend estimates of the value of turnover classified by broad industry, and by state and territory

    Businesses are classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC).

    For standard data outputs, data are aggregated into 6 industry groupings and 15 industry sub-groupings. These industry groupings do not necessarily correspond with the three digit level groups defined by ANZSIC.

    Other concepts (summary)
    Not applicable.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    Monthly estimates of the total value of retail sales of goods (excluding motor vehicles, parts, petrol etc) at the Australia level only were produced from the April 1961 reference month. The Australian total excluded the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

    In the April 1982 reference month, a new series was introduced. In addition to providing the total value of retail sales of goods at the Australia level, the new series provided the value of retail sales classified by broad industry for each state and the Australian Capital Territory (i.e. excluding the Northern Territory).

    In the June 1988 reference month, the retail sales series were replaced by an expanded series called turnover of retail establishments and survey coverage was expanded to include the Northern Territory.

    See C4.3 "Collection History (summary)" for more information.


    Frequency comments
    Estimates known as chain volume measures, from which the direct effect of price changes has been removed, are available quarterly.


    The following summaries key changes in the retail collection since its inception. In each case listed below where there was a significant change in the survey methodology the historical time series were revised to reflect this change.

    Origins - Retail trade was first collected for the year ending 30 June 1948 by the Census of Retail Establishments and further retail censuses were taken every five years.

    Apr 1961 - Monthly estimates of the total value of retail sales at the Australian level first produced.

    Apr 1982 - New series of monthly estimates introduced with variations to the scope of the collection and the introduction of state and seasonally adjusted estimates.

    Jun 1988 - The retail sales series were replaced by an expanded series called turnover of retail establishments. The turnover series included income from all sources which provided a broader indicator of consumer spending. Survey coverage was expanded to include the Northern Territory. Trend estimates were extended to include most current price estimates, and quarterly constant price estimates.

    Nov 1992 - Implementation of a new collection methodology, Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). CATI was introduced to reduce respondent burden, improve collection efficiency and the accuracy of the estimates.

    Apr 1994 - The survey was redesigned and data on the new basis were released from this reference month. The new survey design was based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), which replaced the Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC). In addition, the publication was redesigned to include more focus on month to month movements and seasonally adjusted data at the industry group level.

    Jul 1997 - Business provisions were introduced to improve survey coverage by accounting for the impact of businesses known to be missing from the ABS Business Register and the delay in loading newly registered business to the Retail frame.

    Sep 1998 - Annually reweighted quarterly chain volume measures replaced existing quarterly constant price estimates, providing a better measure of growth in volume terms (i.e. removing the direct effect of price changes).

    Jul 1999 - The use of group employer information to remove cancelled and non-remitting businesses from the Retail frame was introduced to improve survey coverage.

    Nov 1999 - New output editing systems were introduced to meet best statistical practices. The survey also adopted standard ABS methodological systems relating to the treatment of outliers, imputation, and estimation.

    Apr 2000 - Improvements made to the methodology for producing seasonally adjusted estimates. See Information paper: Introduction of Concurrent Seasonal Adjustment into the Retail Trade Series (Cat. no. 8514.0). In addition, the collection adopted the ABS common frame which standardised the frame maintenance procedures. This resulted in historical revisions to the data.

    Jul 2000 - GST included in turnover for the Retail Trade series. The underlying behaviour of the series could not be accurately measured due to changes in spending behaviour associated with the introduction of The New Tax System (TNTS). Hence the trend series in current price terms was suspended as at June 2000.

    Dec 2000 - Current price trend estimates were reintroduced in the Dec 2000 issue from the July 2000 reference month. The impact of TNTS resulted in a break in the trend series between the June and July 2000 reference months. For more information see the article "Impact of The New Tax System on the Retail Trade Trend Series" in the Appendix to the December 2000 issue of Retail Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 8501.0).

    July 2002 - The Retail Business Survey presented the first release of estimates compiled using the new ABS statistical infrastructure. This new infrastructure is described in an information paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System] 2002 (Cat. No. 1372.0), released by the ABS on 6 May 2002. The new infrastructure makes better use of data available from the taxation system to improve the efficiency, coverage and sample design of the surveys from which these series are obtained. A number of changes were also introduced to the procedures used to maintain sample and frames.

    Dec 2002 - A feature article "Contribution of Gambling to the Retail Estimate" was included Retail Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 8501.0)..

    July 2004 - Introduction of a new sample design with a significant reduction in sample size, and hence provider load, combined with a generalised regression estimation methodology utilising the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Business Activity Statement (BAS) item "Total sales". Also 'Toy and Game retailing' and 'Sport, Camping and Photographic equipment retailing' were combined to making a single industry for stratification purposes in the new sample design. More details are available in the information paper Information Paper: Changes to the Retail Trade Series (

    August 2004 - ARIMA modelling was incorporated into the seasonal adjustment process for the majority of the Retail trade series.

    June 2007 - Stratification benchmarks were updated for the first time since July 2004. The updated benchmarks along with adjustments to the stratum boundaries and sampling allocations allowed a further reduction in sample size.

    July 2008 - For budgetary reasons there were major changes to the Retail Business survey. This resulted in a focussing on less detailed trend estimates for the monthly publication and the introduction Quarterly Indicator publication . In order to optimise quality given the available resources, a 'one-in, two out strategy was adopted for collecting data from samples units. At the same time Hotels and Licensed clubs , Hairdressing and Beauty Salons and Video Hire store were excluded from the scope of the collection. There were other changes in the grouping of industries.

    The Retail Trade Quarterly Indicator, Australia (cat. no. 8502.0) publication presented quarterly original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates at the industry sub group by state level and chain volume measures at state and industry level

    Dec 2008 - The full sample with the revised industry structure was reinstated and published under Retail Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 8501.0)

    July 2009 - Retail Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 8501.0) was published using the ANZSIC 2006 industry classifications. Details of the design under the new industry classifications were presented in: Information Paper: ANZSIC 2006 Implementation in Retail Trade Statistics, July 2009 (cat. no. 8501.0.55.006),


    Data availability comments
    Retail Trade, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 8501.0) is released 22 to 23 working days after each reference month.

    18/06/2010 07:27 PM