- Trade and professional organizations use these data to analyze industry trends and benchmark their own
statistical programs, develop forecasts, and evaluate regulatory requirements.
- The media use these data for news reports and background information.
- Private businesses use these data to measure market share, analyze business potential, and plan investments.
The Quarterly Retail E-commerce Report covers firms classified in the Retail Trade as defined by the North
American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Retail Trade, as defined by NAICS sectors 44-45, includes
establishments engaged in selling merchandise in small quantities to the general public, without transformation,
and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. Two principal types of establishments classified in
retail trade can be distinguished-
1. Store retailers operate fixed point-of-sale locations, located and designed to attract a high volume of walk-in
customers. They have extensive displays of merchandise, use mass-media advertising to attract customers and typically
sell merchandise to the general public for personal or household use. Some store retailers also provide after-sales
services, such as repair and installation; for example, new automobile dealers.
2. Nonstore retailers also serve the general public, but their retailing methods differ. Such methods include paper
and electronic catalogs, door-to-door solicitation, in-home demonstration, "infomercials," selling from
portable stalls or through vending machines.
No. The Quarterly Retail E-commerce Report is designed to produce statistics at the national level only.
Because estimates are based on a sample rather than the entire population, the published estimates may differ from
the actual, but unknown, population values. In principle, many random samples could be drawn and each would give a
different result. This is because each sample would be made up of different businesses who would give
different answers to the questions asked.
Common measures of the variability among these estimates are the sampling variance, the standard error, and the
coefficient of variation (CV). The sampling variance is defined as the squared difference, averaged over all possible
samples of the same size and design, between the estimator and its average value. The standard error is the square
root of the sampling variance. The CV expresses the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers.
For example, an estimate of 200 units that has an estimated standard error of 10 units has an estimated CV of 5
percent. The CV has the advantage of being a relative, rather than an absolute, measure and can be used to compare
the reliability of one estimate to another.
The Census Bureau takes its commitment to confidentiality very seriously. It constantly pursues new
procedures, technologies, and methodologies to safeguard individual data. Every person with access to person
or business data - from the Director on down - is sworn by Title 13
to protect confidentiality and is subject to criminal penalties if they do not. Tight computer security and
strict access and handling procedures are followed.
E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated,
over an Internet, mobile device (M-Commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail,
or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online.
Generally, e-commerce divisions of brick-and-mortar companies would be included in electronic shopping and
mail-order houses as long as they do not fulfill e-commerce orders from their stores (companies would provide
separate information to us for their brick-and-mortar stores vs. their e-commerce division). This is similar
to how companies would split reporting between two distinct brick-and-mortar divisions (a company that owns
grocery stores and department stores for example).
Yes. In addition, we are separately estimating e-commerce sales.
No. The Monthly Retail Trade Survey covers all sales of establishments primarily
engaged in retail activities, including traditional retailers selling via the Internet and companies selling
goods exclusively on-line. The survey excludes companies conducting non-retail operations such as travel,
ticketing, and financial services.
Firms are asked to report e-commerce sales on the same questionnaire used to collect total retails sales.
Electronic auctions directed at individual consumers are classified as retail trade. However,
commissions and fees, not sales, are included in the e-commerce estimate. This is similar to the way the
Census Bureau treats sales at traditional auction houses.
Following generally accepted accounting principles, sales from gift certificates are included in the retail sales
of firms at the time the gift certificate is redeemed.
The e-commerce and total sales estimates include sales covering all store and non-store retail locations in
the United States operated by a firm selected in the survey. Sales made to a customer in a foreign country via a U.S.
web site are included in the estimates.
This may vary slightly from company to company, but according to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), revenue is recognized upon shipment of the merchandise, which is when it would be reflected in the Census Bureau's estimates.