Wholesale trade, October 2021
Wholesale sales reach all-time high
Wholesale sales rose 1.4% in October to $72.5 billion, the highest level on record. This was the sixth increase in the past eight months, and wholesale sales in October were 11.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. The growth was largely due to a 7.1% increase in the sales of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts and accessories. Overall, five of seven subsectors posted higher sales in October, representing 61% of sales in the sector.
Constant dollar sales grew 0.6% in October.
Motor vehicle sales rebound
Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories posted its largest increase since July 2020, as sales rose 7.1% to $10.8 billion in October 2021. The increase reflected the fact that a number of motor vehicle manufacturers were able to secure supplies of semiconductor chips in October. Semiconductor chips are expected to be in short supply for the foreseeable future and to improve around mid-2022 as more supplies become available and chip manufacturers operate at a higher capacity. Notwithstanding the large increase in October, there were still significant shutdowns among assembly plants in North America, and sales remained below pre-pandemic levels.
Sales of building material and supplies rose 1.9% in October to $11.4 billion on higher sales of lumber and other building materials. The increase in the lumber and other building materials industry came as the price of lumber at the sawmill gate rose 6.2%, according to the Industrial Product Price Index. This was the first price increase after four months of declines.
Sales in the miscellaneous product subsector rose 1.9% to $10.6 billion in October, the fourth increase in the past five months, pushing sales to their highest level on record. Higher sales of agricultural supplies and minerals, ores, and precious metals generated the increase.
Ontario leads provincial gains
Five provinces and one territory reported higher wholesale sales in October. Together, they represented 68% of national wholesale sales.
Sales grew the most in Ontario, where a 2.1% increase brought sales to $37.2 billion, the highest total on record. October was the fourth consecutive month of growth. Four subsectors reported lower sales, but the three subsectors that grew contributed 57% of sales for the sector.
Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories merchant wholesalers recorded the largest increase in sales in Ontario, reporting 9.9% growth to $7.3 billion in October. Higher sales in the subsector occurred in concert with a 30.8% increase in exports of motor vehicles and parts. Wholesale food, beverage, and tobacco sales increased 5.5% to $6.1 billion, while sales of personal and household goods decreased 4.8% to $6.1 billion.
Wholesale sales in Saskatchewan were up 6.8% in October, to $2.9 billion, another provincial record level. Six subsectors comprising more than 99% of sales in the sector reported higher sales. A 9.0% increase in miscellaneous wholesale was the largest change by far, with monthly sales of $1.5 billion. That subsector represented 52% of wholesale sales in Saskatchewan, and agricultural supplies specifically contributed 86% of the subsector's sales.
Sales in British Columbia grew 2.5% to $7.3 billion. The sales by subsector were mixed, with three subsectors accounting for 50% of the sector reporting an increase in sales. Personal and household goods sales led the increase, adding 22.3% to $0.8 billion. Sales of building materials and supplies increased 4.4% to $2.2 billion.
Sales decreased the most in Nova Scotia, finishing 7.7% lower than in September at $1.0 billion. The four subsectors that reported lower sales accounted for 62% of the sector in October. Food, beverage and tobacco merchant wholesalers reported a 21.4% decrease in monthly sales for a total of $0.4 billion. Although all component industries saw lower sales, the food industry comprises 99% of the provincial subsector and accounted for virtually all of the change in October because of the fish and seafood product industry. Sales in the food wholesale industry were down across the Atlantic region, including a 29.5% drop in food sales in Prince Edward Island.
Inventories increase for the sixth consecutive month in October
The value of wholesale inventories rose 1.1% in October to $99.2 billion, the 10th increase in the past 11 months. Increased inventories were reported in five of seven subsectors, representing 65% of total inventories.
Following four months of decline, inventories in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector rose 6.5% to $11.0 billion in October. This subsector accounted for 63% of the growth of wholesale inventories. All component industries had higher inventories, but the subsector's inventory levels were largely driven by the motor vehicle industry, which saw an 11.4% increase to $5.8 billion.
The remaining increase to wholesale inventories in October was mainly due to increases in the miscellaneous subsector (+2.4%), and in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+1.1%). Inventory growth in the miscellaneous subsector was almost entirely due to continued higher inventories of agricultural supplies, up 5.7% to a record high of $6.2 billion. Higher inventories in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector reflected larger stocks of construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies, and computer and communications equipment and supplies.
Inventories of personal and household goods declined for the fourth consecutive month, down 1.6% to $16.1 billion. A 5.0% fall in pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies' inventories accounted for virtually all of the monthly decrease in the subsector. Excluding this subsector, total wholesale inventories increased 1.6%.
The inventory-to-sales ratio remained at 1.37 in October. This ratio is a measure of the time (in months) required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their levels.
Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.
Seasonally adjusted data are data that have been modified to eliminate the effect of seasonal and calendar influences to allow for more meaningful comparisons of economic conditions from period to period. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.
Trend-cycle estimates are included in selected charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. These data represent a smoothed version of the Seasonally adjusted time series and provide information on longer-term movements including changes in direction underlying the series. For information on trend-cycle data, see Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.
Both seasonally adjusted data and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially for reference months near the end of the series or during periods of economic disruptions.
Total wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using relevant price indexes. The wholesale sales series in chained (2012) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index, with 2012 as the reference year. For more information, see Deflation of wholesale sales.
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).
Real-time data tables
Real-time data tables 20-10-0019-01, 20-10-0020-01 and 20-10-0005-01 will be updated soon.
Wholesale trade data for November 2021 will be released on January 19, 2022.
Please note that the tables available on the website represent a subset of the data available with this release. The full dataset is available upon request by contacting Jeff Paul (email@example.com).
The product "Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: Interactive Tool" (71-607-X) is available online. This product is based on the data published in the tables of the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: 20-10-0074-01, 20-10-0076-01 and 20-10-0003-01.
For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; firstname.lastname@example.org). To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jeff Paul (email@example.com), Mining, Manufacturing, and Wholesale Trade Division.