The Retail Trade sector is comprised of establishments engaged in retailing merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. The U.S. Census Bureau has collected retail trade statistics for the United States in periodic censuses since 1930, and in various surveys from 1935 to the present. The agency began collecting data for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico in 1939. Data collection for Guam and the Virgin Islands of the United States began in 1958, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands in 1982.
Title 13, United States Code-Census, authorizes the economic census and makes response to its inquiries mandatory. Periodic surveys are taken under the same authority; however, response to surveys conducted more frequently than once a year is voluntary. All data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau are confidential and are presented in summary form only. There are heavy penalties for violating the law’s confidentiality provisions.