Wholesale trade, April 2022
Lower wholesale sales in April
Wholesale sales fell 0.5% in April to $79.8 billion, the second decrease in the past three months. Sales fell in five of seven subsectors comprising more than three-quarters of total wholesale activity in Canada. The largest declines were posted in the miscellaneous goods and the building materials and supplies subsectors. Growth in the machinery equipment and supplies subsector largely offset the declines.
Constant dollar sales fell 0.6% in April.
Miscellaneous merchant wholesalers drive decrease in sales for April
After two months of growth for the subsector, sales in the miscellaneous merchant wholesalers declined 3.4% to $11.5 billion in April. The decrease comes despite the fact that three of the five industries within the subsector posted gains for April. The agricultural supplies merchant industry drove the drop as its sales decreased 13.6% to $3.3 billion. The decline in this industry partly reflects a drop in imports of fertilizer from Russia which had more than doubled from 2020 to 2021. Meanwhile, a 7.7% decrease in the chemical (except agricultural) and allied product merchant industry mostly offset the 10.2% gains in the recyclable material merchant industry.
The building material and supplies merchant subsector dropped for the second time in three months, down 1.4% to $14.0 billion in April. The lumber, millwork, hardware and other building supplies industry generated the bulk of the decline as its sales dropped by 3.8% to $7.5 billion. The decline in April reflected lower prices and volumes in the industry. According to the Industrial Product Price Index, prices for lumber and other wood products decreased 8.2% in April and international trade data showed that exports of lumber and other sawmill products fell 2.6% in April.
Partially offsetting the declines was a 1.8% increase in the sales of machinery, equipment and supplies. Sales in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector have risen in seven of the past eight months. Three of four industries in the subsector recorded gains in April, led by the farm, lawn and garden machinery and equipment industry.
Quebec leads declines in sales
Six provinces reported lower sales in April, accounting for 86% of the national value. The declines were led by Quebec, followed by Ontario.
Sales in Quebec decreased 2.1% to $14.7 billion in April, as all seven subsectors saw reduced sales. Declines were led by the food, beverage and tobacco merchant wholesalers which decreased 5.2% to $2.9 billion and accounted for half of the provincial decrease. The machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers (-2.5% to $2.4 billion) and the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories merchant wholesalers (-3.2% to $1.5 billion) also contributed to the decline.
Ontario sales fell 0.4% to $40.4 billion in April. Three of seven subsectors saw a drop in sales. The driving force behind the decline was reduced sales in the miscellaneous merchant wholesalers subsector (-5.0% to $5.1 billion) and the building material and supplies merchant wholesalers (-2.5% to $5.6 billion). Partially offsetting the provincial decrease was the gain in the machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers, up 1.5% to $8.5 billion.
In April, four provinces and all three territories had increased sales. Among them, a 2.0% increase to $8.7 billion in Alberta partially offset the national decline. The gains in Alberta were largely driven by the machinery equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers which increased 6.8% to $2.6 billion and accounted for 68% of the province's growth. The building material and supplies merchant wholesalers also contributed to the province's growth, up 3.6% to $1.7 billion.
Inventories continue to rise in April
Inventories rose 1.7% to $111.5 billion in April, the third consecutive monthly increase. All seven subsectors reported increased inventories for the first time since May 2019, led by the machinery, equipment and supplies, and the building material and supplies subsectors.
Inventories in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector increased by 2.0% to $30.3 billion in April. Inventories grew in all component industries in the subsector, with farm, lawn and garden machinery and equipment reporting the largest growth.
Also contributing to the increase in inventories was the building material and supplies subsector, which grew 2.2% to $21.5 billion. Stocks of electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning equipment and supplies had the greatest growth in the subsector.
Wholesalers of the miscellaneous subsector had gains in inventories of 2.1% to $15.9 billion in April. While all five component industries had greater inventories, 79% of the accumulation was from the miscellaneous and the agricultural supplies industries.
The inventory to sales ratio increased from 1.37 in March to 1.40 in April. This ratio is a measure of the time (in months) required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current 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 Section 2: Issues related to analysis and interpretation.
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 (see Section 1: Concepts and definitions) 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 May 2022 will be released on July 15, 2022.
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.
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