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Retail Sales: The Independent, 29 August 2008

The Independent, 29 August 2008

An article in the Independent drew attention to the discrepancy between the official retail sales figures and estimates from industry sources, implying that this cast doubt on the official data. The National Statistician wrote to point out how solidly based the ONS figures are.



Your columnist casts doubt on ONS retail sales figures ("Lies, damned lies and government statistics", 29 August).  Just because the ONS retail series doesn't tell the same story as those published by specific interest groups, doesn't mean that it is incorrect. The ONS retail estimates are produced to internationally approved standards and provide a robust measure of the sector. 

Non-official estimates, such as those published by the Confederation of British Industry and the British Retail Consortium, provide timely indicators, but exclude important elements of the retail sector and are based on vastly smaller samples than those published by ONS. Our figures are based on a survey of around 5,000 businesses representing all retailers from the largest superstores right down to corner shops. They also include specialist Internet retailers and discount stores - which are not well covered by non-official surveys and which have shown some continued growth in the most recent period.

Yours faithfully,

Karen Dunnell,
National Statistician,
Office for National Statistics,
Government Buildings,
Cardiff Road,
Newport NP10 8XG

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