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From AEAStat staff:

The Census Bureau seeks input on its plans for conducting the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) and the Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MARTS) in 2020-2023.  See https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/25/2019-23327/proposed-information-collection-comment-request-monthly-retail-surveys   Comments are due by December 24, 2019. Observations about collection methods, analytic techniques, and data products are welcome.

Go to https://reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=201704-0607-005 to see current survey forms (click IC List) and detailed description of current approach (click Supporting Statement). An overview of methods follows:

The MRTS and MARTS are related collections sharing the same initial sample frame and collect data that are published in conjunction with each other.

The Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) provides estimates of monthly retail sales, end-of-month merchandise inventories, and quarterly e-commerce sales for firms located in the United States and classified in the Retail Trade or Food Services sectors as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Estimates produced from the MRTS are based on a probability sample of approximately 13,000 firms. The sample design consists of one fixed panel where all cases are requested to report sales, e-commerce sales, and/or inventories for the prior month. If reporting data for a period other than the calendar month, the survey asks for the period's length (4 or 5 weeks) and the date on which the period ended. The survey also asks for the number of establishments covered by the data provided and whether the sales data provided are estimates or more accurate “book” figures. The sample is drawn approximately every 5 years from the Business Register, which contains all Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) and listed establishment locations. The sample is updated quarterly to reflect employer business “births” and “deaths”; adding new employer businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey (SQ-CLASS) and deleting firms and EINs when it is determined they are no longer active. Estimates from the MRTS are released in three different reports each month. High level aggregate estimates for end of month inventories are first released as part of the Advance Economic Indicators Report approximately four weeks after the close of the reference month. The sales and inventories estimates from MRTS are released approximately six weeks after the close of the reference month as part of the Monthly Retail Trade report and the Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales (MTIS) report, which are released on the same day. Additionally, once per quarter, data for quarterly e-commerce sales are released approximately 50 days after the close of the reference quarter as part of the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales report. Currently, there are no planned changes for MRTS.

The Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MARTS) provides an early indication of monthly sales for retail trade and food services firms located in the United States. It was developed in response to requests by government, business, and other users to provide an early indication of current retail trade activity in the United States. Retail sales are one of the primary measures of consumer demand for both durable and non-durable goods. The MARTS survey results are published approximately two weeks after the end of the reference month. MARTS provide an OMB-designated Principal Federal Economic Indicator and the earliest available monthly estimates of broad-based retail trade activity. It also provides an estimate of monthly sales at food service establishments and drinking places.

The MARTS sample is a sub-sample of companies selected from the MRTS. The advance survey sample of about 5,500 companies are selected using a stratified sample by industry and size. Some 1,650 firms, because of their relatively large effect on the sales of certain industry groups, are selected with certainty. The MARTS sample is re-selected generally at 21/2 to 3-year intervals to ensure it is representative of the target population and to redistribute burden for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Similarly to the MRTS sales estimates, advance sales estimates for each kind of business are developed by applying a ratio of current-month to previous-month sales (derived from the advance retail and food service sample) to the preliminary estimate of sales for the previous month (from the larger monthly sample). Industry estimates are summed to derive total retail sales figures.

The MARTS survey requests sales and e-commerce sales for the month just ending. As on the MRTS survey, if firms report data for a period other than the calendar month, the survey asks for the period's length (4 or 5 weeks) and the date on which the period ended. Also similar to MRTS, the survey also asks for the number of establishments covered by the data provided and whether the sales data provided are estimates or more accurate “book” figures. Currently, there are no planned changes for MARTS.

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