Statistics can be used in many ways: The Office for National Statistics' retail sales index is designed for everyone to understand

Kate Davies
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Numbers can be sliced and diced in many ways (Source: Getty)
What is important for one person isn't always the most important thing for someone else. This is why it's vital to offer different ways of looking at how things are changing in order to get the full picture.
The ONS' retail sales index is one of the best indicators of the performance of the British retail sector as it is the largest survey of its kind in the UK, collecting data from 5,000 retailers, including all large retailers and the largest sample of medium and small retailers, covering 95 per cent of all registered turnover in the country.
Some may suggest that it is better to present one set of headline figures, but our statistics are used by a wide variety of people, including decision makers, analysts and the media, These groups will have different needs which is why we present the figures in more than one way so that the person using our statistics can choose the figure that is right for them and their audience.
Our figures present estimates of both the value of sales and the volume of items purchased, both seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted, alongside the average store prices, to give the most complete picture of the retail sector as possible. So they allow you to see the value of the sales that were made, which as Neil Saunders suggests, is important but also, in his terms, the quantity of what was sold, which is important for other reasons.
At the ONS, our aim is to provide timely and accurate statistics to present the best data possible for everyone to understand what is happening in our economy and society. By taking the approach that we do, we aim to improve decision-making through the use of statistics.

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