Wholesale trade, April 2012

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Wholesale sales rose 1.5% in April to $49.3 billion. This increase was mainly due to higher sales in the agricultural supplies industry. Excluding this industry, wholesale sales were unchanged.

In volume terms, wholesale sales were up 1.3% in April.

Chart 1 
Wholesale sales increase in April
Chart 1: Wholesale sales increase in April

Chart description: Wholesale sales increase in April

CSV version of the chart

Agricultural supplies sales rise

An increase in sales was reported in four of the seven subsectors, accounting for roughly two-thirds of total wholesale sales.

The overall increase was almost entirely attributable to a 12.8% rise in the miscellaneous subsector. This subsector was stimulated by a 48.5% increase in sales in the agricultural supplies industry. The rise coincided with a strong increase in exports of fertilizers and fertilizer materials, which were up 51.8% in April over March.

The second biggest advance was posted in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+1.1%), which partly offset the decline in March.

The building material and supplies subsector (+0.5%) and the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+0.2%) posted gains for a third straight month.

The largest sales decrease in dollars occurred in the personal and household goods subsector. Sales fell 2.2%, largely reflecting lower sales in the pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies industry.

Sales increases concentrated in the West

In April, seven provinces recorded growth in wholesale sales, including the four western provinces.

Chart 2 
Wholesale sales up in most of the provinces in April
Chart 2: Wholesale sales up in most of the provinces in April

Chart description: Wholesale sales up in most of the provinces in April

CSV version of the chart

Wholesalers in Alberta contributed the most to the national growth, followed by wholesalers in Saskatchewan.

In Alberta, sales were up 4.6%, the highest growth rate since 2004. Increases were observed in several industries, including the metal service centres industry and the agricultural supplies industry.

The 6.7% increase in Saskatchewan was primarily due to the agricultural supplies industry, which represents just over one-third of the province's sales. This industry's contribution to the provincial increase was moderated by decreases in other industries.

Ontario posted 0.4% growth in wholesale sales in April, a third consecutive increase. In Quebec, sales rose 1.0%.

Inventories continue to rise

Inventories increased 0.3% in April to $59.8 billion. Inventories were up in 13 of the 25 industries.

Wholesalers in the electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning equipment and supplies industry (+10.9%) and in the motor vehicle industry (+8.4%) recorded the largest inventory increases in dollar terms.

The inventory-to-sales ratio fell from 1.23 in March to 1.21 in April.

The inventory-to-sales ratio is a measure of the time in months required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Note to readers

All the data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.

Wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using import and industry product price indexes. Since many of the goods sold by wholesalers are imported, fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar can have an important influence on the prices of goods bought and sold by wholesalers.

The wholesale sales series in chained (2002) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2002 as the reference year.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table081-0011 to 081-0013.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number2401.

The April 2012 issue of Wholesale Trade (Catalogue number63-008-X, free) will be available soon.

Wholesale trade estimates for May will be released on July 19.

For more information, or to order data, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116; infostats@statcan.gc.ca).

For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Karim El hassani (613-951-0608; karim.elhassani@statcan.gc.ca), Distributive Trades Division.