The retail industry at a glance
Retail sales (NAICS 44-45) for the nation increased 17.1%, from $5,572.0 billion in 2020 to $6,522.6 billion in 2021, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS). The word retail is derived from the Norman French word retaille which means "to cut into small parts." This is essentially what retailers do—reduce bulk to allow for consumption by individuals. This broad view of retail is not constrained by the physical mechanism that delivers the value being consumed. It is independent of the form that creates the value. Retailers include restaurants that convert bulk food into on-site or delivered meals, stores like Amazon or Target who buy goods of all kinds in large quantities and deliver them to their individual customers, and even banks that bring in large amounts of money from the Federal Reserve and convert it into small loans for households. All of these entities are constantly innovating by employing smart people and technology to make it easier and more fun to acquire the things we need.