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Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS)

While many people are familiar with the United States Census, which is taken every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, there are actually over 100 different surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau each year. In this educational series, SBB Research Group summarizes key information from about these lesser-known—but highly important—surveys.

What is the Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS)?

The Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) studies retail businesses based in the United States. The survey’s estimates include total annual sales, e-commerce sales, inventories, purchases, operational expenses, gross margins, sales taxes, and accounts receivable.

ARTS collects data more often than the Economic Census, which is surveyed every five years. ARTS is also more thorough than the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS).

How ARTS Data is Used

The figures generated from ARTS serve many purposes. Below are a few examples of how the information is used each year:

  • The Federal Reserve Board reviews and observes credit lending in retail from the accounts receivable information from ARTS.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) utilizes the aggregated information as part of its calculations of the Producer Price Index (PPI) and other measurements of productivity.

  • ARTS estimates are used as points of reference for the more frequent MRTS.

  • Companies and other public agencies utilize the ARTS data to assess economic trends, perform market research, and enhance products and solutions.

Survey Eligibility

The ARTS population that is surveyed each year includes businesses that are categorized in the retail trade sector and are located in the United States (excluding territories). Companies that do not have any paid employees, also known as nonemployers, are imputed or approximated from other sources. Since 2016, information from accommodation and food service businesses is collected in the Service Annual Survey (SAS).

Frequency of Survey

ARTS is conducted every year, and the results are generally released to the public around fifteen months after the survey year has ended. Industry-level estimates are categorized based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

General Topics in the Survey

ARTS collects data each year on retail businesses’ total annual sales, e-commerce sales, purchases, operating expenses, inventories, accounts receivable, and other metrics. Every five years, the survey includes the Business Expenses Supplement, which delves into further detail regarding operating expenses.


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