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Oct 13 --  The Census Bureau asks OMB for approval to conduct the Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) for survey years 2020-22 and invites comments to OMB on ARTS value and design by November 13, 2020.
The Annual Retail Trade Survey (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 survey requests firms to provide annual sales, sales tax, e-commerce sales, year-end inventories, total operating expenses, purchases, and accounts receivable. We also request, for selected industries, sales and e-commerce sales by merchandise line.

The data collected in the Annual Retail Trade Survey provide a current statistical picture of the retail portion of consumer activity. These data are collected to provide a sound statistical basis for the formulation of policy by various government agencies, as well as to serve as a benchmark for the estimates compiled from the Monthly Retail Trade Report. Results will be made available, at the United States summary level, for selected retail trade industries approximately fourteen months after the end of the reference year. ARTS estimates are publicly released based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which has been widely adopted throughout both the public and private sectors.

As requested by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), every five years, in survey years ending in “2” and “7”, ARTS requests data on detailed operating expenses from firms. The last time ARTS collected detailed operating expenses was in 2018 for the 2017 survey year. The plan is to reinstate some of these questions in 2023 as part of the 2022 survey year ARTS data collection.  
For survey year 2020 (collected in 2021), the ARTS will also include improved language and ordering of the questions on the value of inventories and inventory valuation method to ensure a better understanding and response to the questions from respondents. Effective with survey year 2020 and consistent with the agency's goal of harmonizing content across all annual surveys as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, ARTS will no longer collect accounts receivable data. Survey year 2019 estimates (to be released in February 2021) will be the final year that accounts receivable data are available to the public.

The Census Bureau published a pre-submission notice in the Federal Register on Monday, July 6, 2020 (Vol. 85, No. 129). The notice, which was located on pages 40199 and 40200, proposed additional questions on the ARTS related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on firms for survey year 2020. After internal discussions, the Census Bureau decided it will not include additional questions on this survey related to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on firms.
Each year, estimates generated from the ARTS are released to the public approximately 14 months after the reference period has concluded. These national-level estimates are released (for the various items collected) by NAICS code. The current sample was selected on a 2012 NAICS basis, so the estimates are also released on a 2012 NAICS basis. Data will not be published on a 2017 NAICS basis until the next sample revision occurs, which will not take place during this three-year clearance window.
The ARTS sampling frame has two types of sampling units represented: single-establishment firms and multiple-establishment firms. The information used to create these sampling units was extracted from data collected via the 2012 Economic Census and from establishment records contained on the Census Bureau's Business Register (as of October 2015). The Business Register (BR), which is the Census Bureau’s master business list, contains basic economic information for more than 7.4 million employer businesses and over 22.5 million nonemployer businesses. It is updated through direct data collections and administrative records from other federal agencies.

To create the sampling frame, the Census Bureau extracts the records for all employer establishments located in the United States and classified in the retail trade sector, as defined by the 2012 NAICS. For these establishments, the agency extracts sales, end-of-year inventories, payroll, employment, name and address information, primary identifiers, and associated employer identification numbers (EINs).

To create the sampling units, the agency sums the establishment data for all retail establishments associated with the same firm identifier. No aggregation is necessary to put single-unit establishment information on a firm basis. Thus, the sampling units created for single-unit firms simultaneously represent establishment and firm information.

The sample for ARTS uses a stratified, one-stage design with primary strata defined by industry.  There are 85 primary strata. The primary strata are sub-stratified into 4, 7, 10, or 13 annual sales size strata. Sampling units expected to have a large effect on the precision of the estimates are selected “with certainty.”  This means they are sure to be selected and will represent only themselves (i.e., have a selection probability of 1 and a sampling weight of 1).  Within each industry stratum we determine a substratum boundary (or cutoff) that divides the certainty units from the noncertainty units, based on a statistical analysis of data from the 2012 Economic Census.  We also use this analysis to determine the number of size substrata for each industry stratum and to set preliminary sampling rates needed to achieve specified sampling variability constraints on sales estimates for different industry groups.  

Sample selection is a two-step process and begins by identifying the firms selected with certainty.  If a firm's annual sales or end-of-year inventories are greater than the corresponding certainty cut-off, that firm is selected into the ARTS sample with certainty. In the second step, all firms not selected with certainty are subjected to sampling. To be eligible for the initial sampling, a firm had to have nonzero payroll in 2014. Within each noncertainty stratum, we select a simple random sample of firms without replacement.

For the ARTS, a new sample is selected approximately every five to seven years. The ARTS introduced a new sample for survey year 2016. The survey will continue to use this sample throughout this three-year clearance period. The initial sample consisted of roughly 16,500 firms.

This request is for the clearance of two electronic worksheets, the SA-44D and SA-44T. From survey year 2016 through survey year 2019, there were eight electronic form types (SA-44, SA-44A, SA-44C, SA-44D, SA-44E, SA-44N SA-44S and SA-44T). Starting with survey year 2020 (which will be collected in 2021), there will only be the two electronic form types named above. Forms SA-44, SA-44A, SA-44C, SA-44E, SA-44N and SA-44S, are being combined with the remaining forms to reduce respondent burden by streamlining data collection operations on the number of forms received by a company. The two remaining worksheets will collect data from companies with and without merchandise lines, enable us to collect information on a NAICS basis, and to request similar data items. Variations in the electronic worksheets are needed to address the size of the firm, kind-of-business, or data items requested.

ARTS website: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/arts.html    
2020-22 ARTS proposal submitted to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202010-0607-001  Click on IC List for forms, View Supporting Statement for narrative
Federal Register notice inviting comment to OMB: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/10/13/2020-22641/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
Point of contact: Chris Savage, Chief, Retail Trade Branch, Economy-Wide Statistics Division, Census Bureau   (301) 763-4834 john.c.savage@census.gov
For AEA members wishing to provide comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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