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July 6 --  The Census Bureau announced its intent to ask OMB for approval to conduct the Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) for survey years 2020-22 and invites comments on ARTS value and design by September 4, 2020.
 
The ARTS covers employer firms with establishments located in the United States and classified in the retail trade sector, as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The data items requested in the ARTS include annual sales, annual e-commerce sales, year-end inventories, sales taxes, total operating expenses, detailed operating expenses in reference years ending in 2 and 7, purchases, accounts receivables, and, for selected industries, sales by merchandise line. These data are used to satisfy a variety of public and business needs such as economic market analysis, company performance, and forecasting future demands.  
 
The ARTS serves as a benchmark for the estimates produced from the Census Bureau's Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS). The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) utilizes the data when developing its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates and the national accounts' input-output tables. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses the data as an input to its producer price indices and in developing productivity measurements. Furthermore, business and industry groups utilize the data to forecast future demand.

Estimates generated from the ARTS are released to the public approximately 13 months after the reference year has concluded. These national-level estimates are published (for the various items collected) by NAICS code and type of operation.
 
Firms are selected for the survey using a stratified random sample where strata are defined by industry and annual sales size. The sample consisting of businesses classified in the Retail Trade sector as defined by the 2012 NAICS, is drawn from the Business Register (BR). The BR is the Census Bureau's master business list and contains basic economic information for more than 160,000 multi-establishment companies representing 1.8 million affiliated establishments, 5 million single establishment companies, and nearly 21 million non-employer businesses. The BR obtains information through direct data collections and administrative record information from other federal agencies. The ARTS sample is updated quarterly to reflect employer business “births” and “deaths”, adding new employer businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey and deleting firms and subunits of firms identified by their Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) when it is determined they are no longer active. The sample is also updated to reflect mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, splits, and other changes to the business universe.

From survey year 2016 through survey year 2019, there were eight electronic form types. Starting with survey year 2020 (which will be collected in 2021), there will only be four electronic form types (SA-44C, SA-44D, SA44-S and SA44-T).

The Census Bureau is considering inclusion of questions regarding the coronavirus pandemic for the 2020 survey year and welcomes comments on that possibility.  
 
During the 2022 survey year, ARTS will also collect detailed operating expenses.  This occurs in years ending in 2 and 7.  Therefore, the last collection of this information occurred during the 2017 survey year.  
 
ARTS website: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/arts.html   
Federal Register notice inviting comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/06/2020-14415/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
2019 ARTS survey forms: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/arts/technical-documentation/questionnaires.html
2017 ARTS operating expenses questions (item 13): https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/arts/technical-documentation/questionnaires/2017/sa-44a-17.pdf
2017 ARTS supporting statement (will be updated for 2020): https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewDocument?ref_nbr=201911-0607-001
 
Point of contact: Chris Savage, Chief, Retail Trade Branch, Economy-Wide Statistics Division, Census Bureau   (301) 763-4834 john.c.savage@census.gov

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