8622.0 - Retail and Wholesale Industries, Australia, 2012-13 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2014   
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The statistics presented in this release were derived using a combination of data collected directly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and Business Activity Statement data collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 provides for the ATO to pass information to the Australian Statistician for the purposes of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

Please refer to ABS Institutional Environment for more information about the institutional environment of the ABS, including its legislative obligations, financing and governance arrangements and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations. For more information about the institutional environment of the ATO, please refer to Part 3 Management and accountability in the Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report 2012–13.


The main purpose of conducting the 2012–13 Retail and Wholesale Industries Survey is to address National Accounts requirements for updating benchmarks used in the production of the Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) and supply-use tables. This survey is used by the National Accounts Benchmarks Section to estimate industry output and primary inputs. Updated benchmarks are particularly needed in industries that have businesses with a number of products, as these businesses could potentially change their product mix every few years. The concern is that current benchmarks are becoming increasingly out-of-date as they are based on estimates using 2005-06 data.

For the 2012–13 cycle, the Retail and Wholesale Industries Survey replaced the collection of the Retail and Wholesale Divisions of the Economic Activity Survey (EAS) for the reference period.

The major objectives of the survey were:

  • To collect workforce, financial and product data from retail and wholesale businesses Australia wide in order to measure the size, structure and performance of the retail and wholesale sectors.
  • To produce updated benchmarks for statistical use, in particular Australia’s National Accounts and GDP measures.
  • To publish a comprehensive range of data at the national level along with limited data at state level.
  • To produce retail and wholesale margin measures at product level, for inclusion in Input Output tables published by the National Accounts.
    Other client requirements are considered to be of secondary importance. The surveys are being conducted in respect of the financial year 2012–13 and have been undertaken several times previously by the ABS, approximately 7 years apart. The last collection was undertaken for the financial year 2005–06 and prior to that 1998–99.

    The scope of the 2012–13 Retail and Wholesale Industries Survey was all employing and non-employing businesses on the ABS Business Register, classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC06) Division G Retail trade and Division F Wholesale trade.

    For the Retail Industry the scope included Australian businesses mainly engaged in the purchase and on-selling, commission-based buying, and commission-based selling of goods without significant transformation, to the general public. The Retail Industry included businesses that purchase and on-sell goods to the general public using non-traditional means, including the Internet.

    For the Wholesale Industry the scope included Australian businesses mainly engaged in the purchase and on-selling, the commission-based buying, and the commission-based selling of goods, without significant transformation, to other businesses.

    Although the period covered by the estimates was, in general, the twelve months ended 30 June, some businesses were unable to supply information on this basis. In such cases an accounting period for which data could be provided was used for data other than employment which was provided for the last pay period in June, 2013 for all businesses.

    The collection is conducted on an irregular basis with estimates generally available within twelve months of the reference period to which they relate. For the 2012–13 reference period, questionnaires were despatched by ABS in August 2013. The estimates are scheduled for release on 31 July 2014.


    The ABS aims to produce high quality data from its industry collections while minimising the reporting burden on businesses. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into survey and questionnaire design, collection procedures and processing. The 2012–13 survey used generalised regression estimation. Generalised regression estimation is a form of ratio estimation which makes use of auxiliary data items which are strongly correlated with key data items directly collected by the ABS from businesses. The auxiliary variables used in this survey were turnover and wages from data sourced from the ATO. Use of this methodology allowed high quality statistics to be produced from a small, direct collect sample of 10,195 businesses.

    Two types of error can occur in estimates that are based on a sample survey, sampling error and non-sampling error.

    Sampling error occurs when a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed. It reflects the difference between estimates based on a sample and those that would have been obtained had a census been conducted. One measure of this difference is the standard error. There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one standard error from the figure that would have been obtained if all businesses had been included in the survey, and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two standard errors.

    Another measure of sampling error is the relative standard error, which is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. The relative standard error is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the sampling error in percentage terms, and this avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. Relative standard errors of key estimates are available in the Technical Note on Data quality in Retail and Wholesale Industries, 2012–13 (cat. no. 8622.0).

    Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort was made to minimise reporting error, by the careful design of questionnaires, intensive training of survey analysts, and efficient data processing procedures.

    Non-sampling error also occurs when information cannot be obtained from all businesses selected in the survey. For the 2012–13 survey of Retail and Wholesale Industries, there was an 80% response rate from all businesses that were surveyed and found to be operating during the reference period. Data were imputed for the remaining 20% of operating businesses. This imputation contributed 11% to the estimate of sales and service income for Retail and Wholesale Industries.COHERENCE

    Previous Retail and Wholesale Industry Surveys were conducted by the ABS for the 2005-06 reference period. While the ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey, sound survey practice requires ongoing development to maintain the integrity of the data, their relevance to the changing needs of users and the efficiency of the survey. There have been substantial changes in scope and methodology between the surveys, so users should exercise caution when making historical comparisons.

    These changes include:
    • Since the 2005–06 reference year the survey has been conducted using the ANZSIC 2006 classification.
    • The introduction of an improved survey methodology, that made far greater use of Australian Taxation Office data in the survey design for the Retail and Wholesale Industries Survey.

    Key annual industry data for ANZSIC 2006 Subdivisions 33 Basic material wholesaling, 34 Machinery and equipment wholesaling, 35 Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts wholesaling 36 Grocer, liquor and tobacco product wholesaling, 37 Other goods wholesaling, 38 Commission based wholesaling, 39 Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts retailing, 40 Fuel retailing, 41 Food retailing, 42 Other store-based retailing and 43 Non-store retailing and retail commission based buying and/or selling are published in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0). There are important differences between statistics published in Australian Industry and Retail and Wholesale Industries publications. The Retail and Wholesale Industry Survey was partially integrated with Divisions G & F (Retail and Wholesale) in Australian Industry for 2012–13. Partial integration means that different sample sizes have been used for producing the Retail and Wholesale Survey and Australian Industry estimates. Different sample sizes have resulted in minor variations between estimates due to the presence of sampling error. Users should exercise caution when making comparisons between the two sets of estimates.


    Estimates released in Retail and Wholesale Industries, 2012–13 (cat. no. 8622.0) are available as original series only, and are neither seasonally nor trend adjusted.

    Although financial estimates in this release relate to the full twelve months, employment estimates relate to the last pay period ending in June of the given year.

    Further information about terminology and other technical aspects associated with these statistics can be found in the publication Retail and Wholesale Industries, 2012–13 (cat. no. 8622.0), which contains detailed Explanatory Notes, a Technical Note on Estimation methodology, a Technical Note on Data quality and a Glossary.


    Data from the 2012–13 Retail and Wholesale Industry Survey are available free of charge on the ABS website.