"The lack of government data that accurately reflects the retail industry is at least partially to blame."NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz
WASHINGTON – National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz today backed a recommendation that federal agencies should create a “satellite account” to better assess the performance of the retail industry, saying traditional statistical measurements do not accurately reflect the industry’s contribution to the economy amid the increase in online shopping and other changes.
“In recent years, critics have claimed the retail industry is facing an existential crisis, that retail is not growing and that we are entering – if not already in – a retail apocalypse,” Kleinhenz said. “This is not an accurate picture, and the analysis driving this conclusion is incomplete. But why has this become the conventional wisdom? The lack of government data that accurately reflects the retail industry is at least partially to blame.”
Kleinhenz said government standards that only consider employees who work in stores as “retail” fail to capture the hundreds of thousands of warehouse and distribution center jobs retailers have created in recent years to support the increase in ecommerce. Similarly, monthly reports on retail sales don’t break out ecommerce sales, making it difficult to count a retailer’s online sales of clothing, for example, as part of total clothing sales through all retail channels.
Kleinhenz’s remarks came in the June issue of NRF’s Monthly Economic Review, which
focused on a request made by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics last year to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. BLS asked that the non-profit’s Committee on National Statistics assess retail employment and productivity measurements and examine the creation of a satellite account that would better capture the retail industry’s transformation.
Last month, the committee recommended the creation of a labor productivity satellite account that would be developed by an interagency team from BLS, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau, each of which currently track or analyze different retail statistics.
Satellite accounts pull together data in one place in order to provide a better picture of economic sectors that cross traditional statistical lines. They have been used to measure ecommerce and digital services, health care, outdoor recreation and small business, among other sectors, and the committee said those accounts could be useful examples in developing a retail satellite account.
“NRF has been a strong advocate for better retail data from government agencies and has emphasized the need to capture aspects of the industry’s transformation that are not reflected in current statistics,” Kleinhenz said. “We are hopeful that work on creation of a retail satellite account will begin immediately, and we are prepared to bring industry perspective to assist in the launching of this essential and timely initiative.”
Today’s release of the Monthly Economic Review comes as NRF prepares to update its retail sales forecast for 2021 as part of its inaugural State of Retail and the Consumer virtual event at noon EDT on June 9. Members of the news media can register here.
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $3.9 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 52 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.