Have you ever heard of the ACS?  Well, don’t feel too bad. Most people haven’t heard of it either — and that could potentially be a big problem for retailers throughout the country.

ACS stands for the American Community Survey, a rolling survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. It provides the nation’s only source of comparable, consistent and timely demographic and socioeconomic data and information on U.S. communities.

The ACS data helps instruct the allocation of federal, state and local government assistance and grants to the tune of $400 billion a year. And it’s used by various organizations, sectors and businesses — including and most importantly — retailers and merchants.

The survey provides a benchmark that supplements and supports retail-related data in a variety of ways, such as advertising, capital investment, distribution, hiring, marketing, merchandising and store and warehouse location selection.

The ACS powers the strategically important short-term and long-term business decisions of the nation’s retail industry and helps answers questions like:

  • Can this community support a full spectrum of retail outlets and merchandise?
  • Will we see effective return on investment from running an advertising campaign in this community?
  • Where should we locate a distribution center, store or warehouse?

The ACS helps both public and private organizations make informed decisions on the outlay of financial and fiscal resources. But all that could be put in jeopardy due to misinformed legislative action.

There are efforts afoot in Congress through the appropriations process to seriously defund, alter or repeal the survey. While some lawmakers’ concerns are justified, especially in regard to protecting privacy, any movement away from a fully-funded, annual ACS survey could do unreasonable and irrevocable harm to this important economic, government and retail resource.

Retailers and allies in the advertising, manufacturing and warehousing industries are working closely with policymakers to ensure that they understand the importance of this publicly available and data-rich survey.