Retail Trade Replacement Program – Monthly Household Spending Indicator


Enhancements to the Monthly Household Spending Indicator (MHSI) will enable the ABS to stop the Retail Trade publication on 30 July 2025, providing users with a more comprehensive view on household consumption and eliminating the need for businesses to respond to the Retail Business Survey. Further details including the timeline of changes and frequently asked questions is available in Future cessation of the Retail Business Survey and Retail Trade Publication.

Product enhancements

The first release of the enhanced MHSI publication will include the following series with data going back to January 2019:

  • Dollar levels per consumption category per state and territory per month, using the same 9 COICOP categories as the current MHSI.
  • Seasonally adjusted series for total expenditure and for the analytical series (goods and services; discretionary and non-discretionary), at national level only.
  • Quarterly chain volume measures (original only, not seasonally adjusted at this stage).

During the next few months, we also aim to produce modelled back series for all of the above, going back to approximately 2013.

Methodology improvements

Based on feedback from key users, we are making adjustments to the bank transaction data, to move the target concept from “spending” to “consumption”. This should lead to better alignment between MHSI outputs and quarterly HFCE. The adjustments are of three main types.

  1. Product split. When you pay for something using a card, the transaction is assigned to a Merchant Category Code (MCC). For the current MHSI publication, each MCC simply contributes to the best matching category of consumption (COICOP). For example, money spent at a department store is all counted as “clothing and footwear” regardless of the actual items purchased.

    In the enhanced MHSI, many of the MCCs will be pro-rated so that they contribute to multiple COICOPs. For example, department store expenditure might be counted as approximately 45% clothing and footwear, 30% recreation and culture, 20% furnishing and household equipment, and so on. For the first release of enhanced MHSI, the proportions are mostly taken from the 2012-13 Retail and Wholesale Industries survey. Over the next few years, we aim to bring in newer data to update the product splits.
  2. Scope and coverage adjustments. The data received by ABS comes from a number of banks, but does not cover every card transaction in Australia, and does not include cash or other payment channels. Over time, we expect to see a mix of growth from genuine increases in consumption plus growth from greater use of cards in preference to cash. There may also be movements due to changes in the coverage of our participating banks compared with other institutions.

    The current MHSI relies entirely on the quarterly benchmarking process to correct for scope and coverage changes and to ensure that any growth in the published figures represents genuine economic growth.

    The enhanced MHSI will use data from the Reserve Bank’s Monthly Payment Statistics and Consumer Payment Survey to adjust the raw bank data for scope and coverage. This means that MHSI should be quicker to respond to any changes, and it removes the indirect dependency of MHSI on the Retail Trade Survey (through the quarterly benchmarking process).
  3. Inclusion of supplementary data sources. The enhanced MHSI will use supermarket scanner data (the same data that is currently used in CPI and HFCE) to improve the accuracy of our estimates for food consumption expenditure.

    As well as these changes, we are reassessing the role of benchmarking. The current approach of benchmarking MHSI to quarterly HFCE means that there is strong alignment between the two series, but it also leads to frequent and sometimes large revisions of the MHSI publication. There is potential to change to an annual benchmarking method, subject to the results meeting our quality standards. This assessment is still in progress, and we will update this page when the outcome is decided. 

Potential future development

The following changes are viewed by the ABS as desirable, but have not yet been ranked in priority order or allocated to a forward work program. We are interested in feedback on the relative value of each item for users, and any other suggestions for long term improvements to MHSI.

  • Publication of a second set of outputs classified by industry rather than product (for example, using industry groups similar to the current Retail Trade Survey).
  • Seasonal adjustment of series per COICOP category and/or per state and territory.
  • Seasonal adjustment of chain volume measures.
  • Further improvements to product splits by bringing in newer data.
  • Improvement to transport estimates by including VFACTS data on purchase of new cars.
  • Finer geographic breakdown by capital city and rest of state
  • Separate series for online (card not present) and card present transactions
  • A separate series for overseas expenditure by Australian residents.
  • Monthly chain volume measures.
  • Expand MHSI to include the other three COICOP categories (Education; Communication; Housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels).

Out of scope

Due to the confidential nature of the source data, the ABS does not intend to publish estimates at very fine levels of geography or to provide users with customized extracts or microdata access. We are grateful to participating banks for their willingness to share their valuable data assets and for their collaboration on continuous improvements to the data supply.


If you have a question about the cessation of the Retail Business Survey, or if you are interested in being part of the conversation about the enhancements to the Monthly Household Spending Indicator, Monthly Business Turnover Indicator or Household Final Consumption Expenditure, please email To submit anonymous feedback please click the green Feedback button on the right hand side of this page.

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