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Wholesale trade, January 2016

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Released: 2016-03-17

Wholesale sales

$57.0 billion

January 2016


(monthly change)

Wholesale sales were unchanged at $57.0 billion in January as gains in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector were offset by lower sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector.

In volume terms, wholesale sales decreased 0.2% in January.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Wholesale sales unchanged in January
Wholesale sales unchanged in January

Gains in four subsectors offset by declines in others

Higher sales were recorded in four subsectors in January. In dollar terms, the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector led the gains.

The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector increased 2.6% to $11.5 billion. The construction, forestry, mining, and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry led the gain, increasing 6.4% to its highest level since May 2015. A rise of 2.4% in the other machinery, equipment and supplies industry also contributed to the increase.

The personal and household goods subsector was up 0.5% to $7.9 billion, while the food, beverage and tobacco subsector increased 0.2% to $11.0 billion. This was the highest level on record for both subsectors.

Following two consecutive declines, the farm product subsector increased 3.7% to $690 million.

Sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector decreased 2.8% to $11.0 billion, the first decline in three months. The motor vehicle industry accounted for the drop, declining 4.9% to $8.3 billion. Despite the decrease, sales in the industry were 27.4% higher than in January 2015.

Sales down in six provinces

In January, lower sales were recorded in six provinces, together accounting for 69% of wholesale sales. These declines were mostly offset by gains in British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba.

Ontario recorded the largest decline in dollar terms in January, down 0.5% to $29.1 billion, following two consecutive gains. Lower sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector and the building material and supplies subsector contributed to the decrease.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, sales fell 21.2% to $339 million, a second consecutive decrease. The decline in January brought the province to its lowest level since November 2013. The miscellaneous subsector led widespread declines across subsectors.

Sales in both Alberta ($6.3 billion) and Saskatchewan ($2.4 billion) fell 1.0% in January. The decline in Alberta offset most of the gains recorded in the two previous months, while the decrease in Saskatchewan followed three consecutive gains. In both provinces, the miscellaneous subsector and the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector contributed to the decline.

In Nova Scotia, sales declined 5.0% to $821 million, mostly offsetting the 6.1% gain recorded in December. The food, beverage and tobacco subsector, which had contributed the most to the gain in December, led widespread declines across subsectors in January.

Both British Columbia and Quebec recorded a third consecutive gain in January that brought sales to their respective highest levels on record. In British Columbia, sales rose 2.8% to $5.5 billion on the strength of gains in most subsectors, while in Quebec, sales rose 1.4% to $10.4 billion, led by gains in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector.

Following three consecutive declines, sales in Manitoba rose 4.6% to $1.5 billion. Gains were widespread across subsectors, led by the miscellaneous subsector.

Inventory levels increase in January

Wholesale inventories rose 0.3% in January to $72.9 billion, the first advance in three months. Increases were recorded in three of seven subsectors, accounting for 51% of total wholesale inventories.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Wholesale inventories increase in January
Wholesale inventories increase in January

The largest gain in dollar terms was in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+1.2%), mostly offsetting the decline in the previous month.

Increases in inventories were also recorded in the food, beverage and tobacco (+1.6%) and miscellaneous (+1.3%) subsectors.

The motor vehicle and parts (-1.4%) and building material and supplies (-0.9%) subsectors recorded their second decline in three months.

The inventory-to-sales ratio increased from 1.27 in December to 1.28 in January. This 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 data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Total wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using relevant price indexes. The wholesale sales series in chained (2007) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2007 as the reference year. For more information, see Sales in volume for Wholesale Trade.

The Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey covers all industries within the wholesale trade sector as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), with the exception of oilseed and grain merchant wholesalers (NAICS 41112), petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers (NAICS 412), and business-to-business electronic markets, and agents and brokers (NAICS 419).

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM tables 081-8011, 081-8012 and 081-8015 will be updated on March 24. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Wholesale trade data for February will be released on April 20.


The publication Wholesale Trade (Catalogue number63-008-X) is no longer available. All data from the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey are released in CANSIM.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact John Burton (613-862-4878;, Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade Division.

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