Wholesale trade, February 2018
Wholesale sales declined 0.8% to $62.8 billion in February, the largest downward movement and the second monthly drop since September 2017. Lower sales were recorded in four of seven subsectors, representing 64% of total wholesale sales. The miscellaneous and the motor vehicle and parts subsectors contributed the most to the decline.
In volume terms, wholesale sales decreased 0.9% from January to February.
February decline attributable to decreases in four of seven subsectors
The miscellaneous subsector reported the largest decline in dollar terms in February, declining 3.7% to $7.7 billion. This was the second decrease in three months, bringing the subsector to its lowest level since December 2016. The agricultural supplies industry recorded the only decline within the miscellaneous subsector, down 16.8% to $1.8 billion. The decrease in February saw the industry fall to its lowest level since November 2014.
Sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector fell 2.1% to $11.3 billion, a fourth decline in five months. Decreases were recorded in two of three industries, with the motor vehicle industry contributing the most (-2.6% to $9.0 billion). This was the fifth consecutive monthly decline for the motor vehicle industry.
Wholesalers in the building material and supplies subsector posted a 0.4% decrease in February, to $8.8 billion. Lower sales in the subsector were mostly attributable to the lumber, millwork, hardware and other building supplies industry (-1.7% to $4.3 billion).
Meanwhile, sales in the personal and household goods subsector were up 0.8% to $8.7 billion, on the strength of gains in four of six industries. The home furnishings (+8.1%) and personal goods (+4.0%) industries contributed the most to the growth.
Sales down in seven provinces, led by Ontario
Sales in Ontario fell for the second time in three months, down 1.1% to $32.3 billion in February. Three of seven subsectors recorded declines, led by the food, beverage and tobacco subsector. This subsector decreased 4.9% to $5.1 billion in February, nearly offsetting the 5.8% increase in January. The motor vehicle and parts subsector declined 2.9% to $7.8 billion, a fifth consecutive monthly decrease. The miscellaneous subsector fell for the second consecutive month, down 1.4% to $3.9 billion.
In Manitoba, wholesale sales declined 3.7% to $1.6 billion, a third decrease in four months. Five of seven subsectors declined, with the miscellaneous subsector accounting for the majority of the decrease. This subsector fell for the third time in four months, down 13.8% to $335 million, its lowest value since December 2015.
Sales in Saskatchewan declined for the fourth consecutive month, down 2.6% to $2.1 billion. Two of seven subsectors fell, with the miscellaneous subsector accounting for the majority of the decline, dropping 13.3% to $660 million and down 7.9% year over year.
Nova Scotia was one of three Atlantic provinces recording an increase in sales, up 4.0% to $843 million and led by the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+7.9%).
Wholesale inventories remain unchanged in February
Wholesale inventories were unchanged at $83.6 billion in February. Lower inventories in three subsectors, representing 60% of wholesale inventories, were offset by higher inventory levels in the other subsectors.
In dollar terms, the motor vehicle and parts subsector (-2.5%) posted the largest decline. Lower inventory levels in the motor vehicle industry (-3.6%) contributed the most to the decline.
Inventories in the building material and supplies subsector (-0.4%) declined for a third consecutive month.
The personal and household goods subsector had the largest gain in dollar terms, up 1.9%. The increase was mostly attributable to elevated inventories in the pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies industry (+3.1%).
Inventories in the miscellaneous subsector rose 1.6% on the strength of higher inventories in the agriculture supplies (+1.5%) and chemical (except agriculture) and allied products (+4.3%) industries.
The inventory-to-sales ratio increased from 1.32 in January to 1.33 in February due to a decrease in sales. 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
Wholesale trade data for March will be released on May 22.
For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca). For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact John Burton (613-862-4878; firstname.lastname@example.org), Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade Division.
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