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For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sales for U.S. Retail Trade Sector Over $5,411.0 Billion

Press Release Number CB21-TPS.09

JAN. 28, 2021 — U.S. retail trade sales increased for the entire retail trade sector (NAICS 44-45) by 3.0%, from $5,253.0 billion in 2018 to $5,411.0 billion in 2019, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS).

Motor vehicle and parts dealers (NAICS 441) had sales of $1,239.8 billion, representing an increase of 2.9% over the previous year. Other highlights:

  • Grocery store sales (NAICS 4451) increased 3.2% from $671.3 billion in 2018 to $693.0 billion in 2019.
  • Gas station sales (NAICS 447) decreased 1.7%, from $521.5 billion in 2018 to $512.4 billion in 2019.
  • Electronic shopping and mail-order houses (NAICS 4541) had sales of $667.9 billion in 2019, up 14.3% from $584.3 billion in 2018.

The Census Bureau has been conducting the ARTS since 1952. It includes 16,500 employer businesses that sell directly to consumers that are classified in the retail trade sector in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It excludes data for businesses in U.S. territories. Firms without paid employees (nonemployers) are included in the survey estimates through administrative data provided by other federal agencies and through imputation. The data are published on a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) basis, and the estimates are used to benchmark the monthly retail sales and inventories estimates each spring.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) uses the retail estimates to derive industry output for the input-output accounts and for the gross domestic product (GDP). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses the estimates as input to its Producer Price Index (PPI) and in developing productivity measurements.

The ARTS includes statistics for total annual sales, e-commerce sales, sales taxes, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total and detailed operating expenses, gross margins, and end-of-year accounts receivable for retail businesses.

Sales, inventory and quarterly e-commerce, and new monthly state retail sales data are also available through the Monthly Retail Trade Survey. The ARTS provides data with more detail at the NAICS level and provides additional data not available in the monthly surveys such as sales taxes, annual purchases, gross margin, operating expenses, accounts receivable and per capita retail sales.

All comparisons of sample-based estimates made in this release have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90% confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the ARTS tables site for measures of sampling variability for sample-based estimates. 

All dollar values are expressed in current dollars, i.e., they are not adjusted for price changes. For more information about the ARTS (including information on comparability, confidentiality protection, sampling error, nonsampling error and definitions), visit the ARTS methodology site.

No news release associated with this product. Tip sheet only.



Jewel Jordan
Public Information Office


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