My heading doesn’t refer to bad UK retail results – I’m complaining about useless measurements and reporting.

Management Today reported today on the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) report on December retail sales last year. The headline shouted out: “Un-happy Christmas as UK retail sales slump“. The report explains that basically December 2012 saw no growth in retail sales. Technically there was a “seasonally-adjusted” 0.1% month on month growth. (Please, MT journalists, do your job and explain what this means. What is seasonal adjustment?)

Further down the report, and also reported in a totally different story in MT today, we learn that online sales soared. Journalists continue to report – as if it was news – that Internet shopping is on the rise. Really? What kind of journalism is this? What year are we living in that this is news?

If anything, the fact that bricks and mortar stores are actually not losing ground, while Internet sales grow in the double digits, is actually big news. You’d have thought that real-world retailers would be in free fall. So, it’s actually better news than they have a right to expect. That really is news.

But my real gripe is that the ONS still separates “retail sales” from “online sales” as if these were two different things. Almost all “retailers” have online stores. Why are these measured separately? Why does the ONS not combine these and show the improvement being made in overall retail sales?

Bad measuring, bad reporting, but not such bad numbers, all things considered.

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