Retail trade and bankruptcy revisions

MESI Feature Article

Retail trade revisions

In July 2008 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced revisions to the Retail Business Survey (RBS) which affected the data reported in the ABS Retail Trade publication. Those changes, and their impact on this Bulletin, were discussed in a feature article in the October 2008 edition. This short update discusses the impact of the reversal of the ABS decision for future editions of this publication.

The earlier changes

In October 2008 we reported that the ABS was reducing the sample size of the RBS, removing some industries from the survey and adopting a new survey methodology for businesses remaining in the survey.  According to the ABS, the impact of these changes was that the sample would be reduced by 59 per cent and that the increased standard error of the results would make monthly comparisons unreliable. As a consequence, the data reported in this Bulletin shifted to the more accurate quarterly seasonal adjusted retail trade data, rather than the typical monthly data presented before the change.

The reversal of the decision

In November 2008 the ABS announced that it would be reinstating a full sample for the RBS for each month. The change means that the survey would revert to the methodology comparable to the system in place prior to July 2008. However, one change has remained, the removal of hotels and licensed clubs, video hire outlets and hairdressing and beauty salons from the sample. Therefore, from November 2008 the RBS will survey 500 larger ‘fully enumerated’ businesses and sample 2700 smaller businesses each month.

Monthly Statistical Bulletin Table 4.1

As a result of this revision, the Monthly Statistical Bulletin Table 4.1 will report seasonally adjusted aggregate Australian retail trade on a monthly basis.  This change has been implemented from the March 2009 edition. The Bulletin will cease reporting the quarterly retail sales series. 

Bankruptcy data revisions

The Monthly Statistical Bulletin has published one of the measures of bankruptcy—the total number of bankruptcies—reported by the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA).  From March 2009, additional data will be included on personal and business related bankruptcies.

What is changing?

The ITSA data on bankruptcies, specifically those persons administered under Part IV and XI of the Bankruptcy Act, is typically presented on a state-by-state basis with a total for each quarter.  In a footnote ITSA identify how many of the total bankruptcies are business related. 

According to ITSA, a business related bankruptcy is one “… in which an individual's bankruptcy is directly related to his or her proprietary interest in a business.”

The Monthly Statistical Bulletin collection will now include the total level of bankruptcies, personal bankruptcies and business related bankruptcies as separate items, so that the type of bankruptcy can be identified.

The disaggregated time series run from September quarter 1997. The detail on total bankruptcies, which is available from 1948‑49 in the electronic bulletin, will remain available for client use.

Not a new story

Strictly speaking, the impact of the new data is limited as the Bulletin has usually included a description of the number of business related bankruptcies.  The main gain in this change is that the personal and business bankruptcies will be identified over a five year period in the print edition of the Bulletin, and that the electronic version will include the full time series of both types of bankruptcies.

Comparison across time

The data enrichment allows better comparisons of the types of bankruptcies. Graph 1 displays the personal and business series. This graph identifies that business related bankruptcies are essentially flat, whereas personal bankruptcies are more volatile.

Graph 1. Bankruptcies compared

Graph 1: bankruptcies compared


Monthly Statistical Bulletin Table 4.5

Monthly Statistical Bulletin print edition Table 4.5 will include quarterly and annual data for personal, business related and total bankruptcies, changes in total bankruptcies and a graph showing the quarterly movement in total bankruptcies.  The electronic version of the table will include quarterly and annual percentage changes in the separate series and a graph of the levels of personal and business bankruptcies.


Adrian Makeham-Kirchner

Statistics and Mapping Section

Back to top