end of header

Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS)

Business Help Site
Skip top of page navigation


About the Survey


To provide current estimates of sales at retail and food services stores and inventories held by retail stores. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this survey and provides for voluntary responses.


Companies with one or more establishments that sell merchandise and related services to final consumers.


Retail firms provide data on dollar value of retail sales and end-of-month inventories.


Monthly since 1951; A new sample is chosen approximately every 5 years; most recently for 2013.


A mail-out/mail-back survey of about 12,000 retail businesses with paid employees; supplemented by estimates for nonemployers, new employers, and missed employers obtained from benchmarking to the Annual Retail Trade Survey. The sample of retail firms is drawn from the Business Register which contains all Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) and listed establishment locations. Sales and inventories data are collected using one combined survey form.

Firms selected for the survey are first stratified by major kind of business and estimated sales. All firms with sales above applicable size cutoffs are selected into the survey with certainty (i.e., probability equal to one) and report for all their retail establishments.Approximately 2,500 of the 12,000 are selected with certainty. EINs are stratified by major kind of business and sales, and randomly selected from each stratum.

The sample is updated quarterly to reflect employer business "births" and "deaths"; adding new employer businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey and dropping firms and EINs when it is determined they are no longer active. There is about a 9 month delay before new firms are represented in the sample.


Monthly Retail Trade Sales and Inventories estimates are released approximately 6 weeks after the end of the reference month. Statistics include retail sales, inventories, and ratios of inventories-to-sales. Estimates are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted.

The Annual Revision of Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services is released annually each spring. This report includes revised and benchmarked monthly estimates of sales and inventories; monthly data for the entire time series; and detailed annual estimates and ratios for the U.S. by kind of business.


These data are widely used throughout government, academic, and business communities. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the estimates to calculate Gross Domestic Product. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the estimates to develop consumer price indexes and productivity measurements. The Council of Economic Advisers uses the estimates to analyze current economic activity. The Federal Reserve Board uses the estimates to assess recent trends in consumer purchases. The media use the estimates to report news of recent consumer activity. Financial and investment companies use the estimates to measure recent economic trends.

Special Features:

Contributes to two designated principal economic indicators. This survey is an integral component of the Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey and the Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales Report.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | BHS Team |   Last Revised: January 04, 2018 14:14:43