Retail Business Survey

Ready to complete your survey?

If your business has been set up for the survey and your are ready to provide your monthly turnover figures for the previous month, please call 1800 020 635 freecall (excluding mobile phones) to speak to an ABS Officer. 

If your business is new to the Retail Business Survey, please call 1800 654 467 freecall (excluding mobile phones) to set up your reporting for the survey or if your require any assistance.


Contact us

Welcome to the help page for the Retail Business Survey, which contains information designed to help business understand and complete the questions asked for the survey.

If your question about the Retail Business Survey is not answered on this help page you can contact the ABS on 1800 020 635 freecall (excluding mobile phones). 

For common questions about participation in ABS business surveys, please see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Purpose of the survey

Thank you for your participation. The ABS is grateful for the cooperation of businesses in providing their data for the Retail Business Survey. Many aspects of economic policy are influenced by this data, including decisions by the Reserve Bank on the setting of interest rates. We look forward to your continued support.

Frequently asked questions

How was I selected?

The Retail Business Survey is based on a sample of approximately 3,200 businesses. Your business has been identified as having activity relevant to the Retail Business Survey. The probability of a business being selected in an ABS survey depends on its expected contribution to the economy.

How did you get my business' name or address?

Your business' name and address details are sourced from the ABS Business Register (ABR). The ABR contains the name and addresses of all businesses that have registered an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Australian Tax Office (ATO). 

How do I make sure the contact details for my business are up to date?

You can contact the ABS on 1800 654 467 to update your contact details. When contacting the ABS to update your contact details, please have the following information ready: the name of the person who should be contacted regarding the survey, their phone number, email address and preferred time and day for contact. 

How do I provide my data to the ABS for the Retail Business Survey?

If your business is new to the Retail Business Survey, you will be required to undertake a short phone interview with an ABS officer to set up your reporting for the survey. Once your business has been set up for the survey, you will be contacted by an ABS officer who will ask about the turnover of your business for the previous month. The average interview will take about two minutes. 

Why are you collecting data from my business?

The main purpose of the Retail Business Survey is to monitor changes in the performance of the Australian retail industry and changes in levels of household spending, and to inform policy making in this area. The data and results of the Retail Business Survey are used extensively by the retail industry, business and government to assess the performance of the economy. The results of the Retail Business Survey are a major input into the Australian National Accounts and many aspects of economic policy are influenced by this data, such as decisions made by the Reserve Bank of Australia on the setting of interest rates. 

How long will my business or organisation be in the survey?

The length of time that a business is selected in any particular survey will depend on factors such as the size of the business, the number of businesses with similar characteristics, and how significant the activities of the business are to the overall results. The methods for selecting large and smaller businesses are outlined below. 

Larger businesses have a high chance of selection in multiple ABS business surveys. Due to their significant contribution to the overall survey results, they will usually remain in a survey on an ongoing basis. 

Smaller businesses have a lower chance of selection and will usually be included in a particular survey for up to three years; though there can be some exceptions to this rule, particularly if a small business has a significant impact on the survey results. Generally, smaller businesses are less likely to be included in more than one survey at a time because of the large number of businesses that make up this population. However, there will always be some cases where inclusion in more than one survey cannot be avoided. Where possible, the ABS will utilise data from existing administrative data sources to replace or reduce direct data collection from smaller businesses. 

I am only a small business. Should I be in the survey?

The ABS considers the activities of small businesses to be just as important as large businesses and as such cannot be excluded from participation in ABS surveys. Smaller businesses have different characteristics from large businesses and are affected by different government policies and incentives. Usually, a sample of smaller businesses is selected to represent a large number of other like businesses, and together they make an important contribution to the Australian economy, especially at state and territory levels. As such, the contribution of small businesses to the results of the Retail Business Survey is important. 

How should I report sales income/turnover?

Please report all income generated from the sale of goods or provision of services by your business/organisation. Sales or turnover includes: 

  • Retail sales
  • Wholesale sales
  • Takings from repairs, meals and hiring of goods (except for rent, leasing and hiring of land and buildings)
  • Commissions from agency activity (e.g. commissions received from selling lottery tickets)
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST).

How should I report online sales?

Please report all income generated from the sale of goods or provision of services where the order is placed by the buyer via the internet or any other computer network, as online sales. Online sales also includes:

  • Click & collect
  • Direct to boot

Why do I have to provide my information on a monthly basis?

The Retail Trade publication provides a leading monthly indicator of domestic consumer spending behaviour to support macroeconomic policy decision making. The monthly frequency of the publication allows policy makers to quickly understand how households have responded to changes in the economy. 

What if I can't report for a calendar month?

We ask for sales data to be provided on a full calendar month basis. If your business does not complete sales accounts on a full calendar month basis, please contact us on 1800 020 635. We will be able to make alternative arrangements, for example accepting data for a four or five week period.

Can I have more time to complete the survey?

Businesses experiencing difficulties in completing ABS surveys by the due date can request an extension of time. Extensions may be granted on a case by case basis, and should be requested by contacting the toll free telephone number which appears on the front of the survey form. Please note that careful estimates are acceptable if actual data is not available. 

Is this survey compulsory? What if I refuse to fill it in?

The ABS relies on the willing cooperation of businesses selected in our surveys to provide accurate information as requested. The vast majority of businesses respond regularly to our requests for information. The questions included in the Retail Business Survey are asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act, you are obliged to provide the information being requested. Furthermore, the Australian Statistician has the power, if necessary, to direct you in writing to answer the questions. As most business survey results contribute towards policy and legislation formulation, it is crucial that your response is provided to produce reliable and useful results. 

Is my information confidential?

Data supplied by businesses to the ABS remains strictly confidential. It is used to compile aggregate estimates and under no circumstances does the ABS publish any data that would enable data from your business to be identified. Furthermore, it is an offence under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 for ABS staff to either directly or indirectly divulge or communicate any information furnished in pursuance of the Act to any person (other than the person from whom the information was obtained). The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

What about the workload we already have?

The ABS is very conscious of the reporting load imposed on businesses in completing our statistical surveys. The ABS has been actively pursuing a range of initiatives to manage and minimise reporting load placed on businesses – please see Steps the ABS is taking to minimise reporting load on businesses

Why don't you pay people to fill in your surveys?

There is no provision within the Census & Statistics Act (1905) to reimburse businesses for the cost of providing statistical information. In line with other national statistical organisations throughout the world, individuals, businesses and other organisations are asked to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation. The majority of statistics derived from ABS business surveys provide information that is of value to the community as a whole. 

How accurate do the figures need to be?

The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The information supplied by your business is used to produce estimates for all businesses within the same industry operating in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the estimates will be. However, if accurate data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.

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