Analysis — September 2011

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Wholesale sales increased for a fifth consecutive month in September, rising 0.3% to $48.7 billion.

Chart 1

In volume terms, wholesale sales fell 0.5% in September.

The difference between the growth rates expressed in current and constant dollars can be explained by an increase in prices and a decrease in volume.

Two subsectors account for most of the increase

September's higher sales came mainly from increases in the miscellaneous, and the food, beverages and tobacco products subsectors. These increases were partially offset by decreases in the machinery, equipment and supplies, and the personal and household goods subsectors.

The largest sales increase was reported in the miscellaneous subsector, which rose 3.3% to $6.8 billion in September. The agricultural supplies industry, which accounted for most of this growth, gained 15.5%. Sales in this industry have demonstrated considerable volatility in recent months.

Sales in the food, beverages and tobacco products subsector (+0.6%) rose for the sixth consecutive month. All three component industries reported gains.

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.

The largest decrease in dollar terms occurred in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (-0.7%). This decline was the result of lower sales in the farm, lawn and garden machinery and equipment (-9.4%) and the computer and communications equipment and supplies (-2.7%) industries.

Sales fell 0.9% in the personal and household goods subsector. This reflected decreases in three of its component industries, with the largest decline in toiletries, cosmetics and sundries (-7.1%).

Wholesale sales strongest in the West

In September, Saskatchewan and Alberta were the major contributors to the national growth, more than offsetting declines in six other provinces.

In Saskatchewan, sales grew by 7.3% following a decline of 4.4% in August. Higher sales in the agricultural supplies industry was the major factor contributing to this increase.

Wholesale sales in Alberta rose 2.0%, continuing an upward trend that began in May. There was growth in several subsectors in September, including machinery, equipment and supplies.

Sales in Quebec edged up 0.2% in September.

Ontario (-0.3%) reported the largest decrease in dollar terms.

All four Atlantic provinces posted declines.

Inventories continue to rise

Inventories rose 0.6% to $57.6 billion in September, posting their ninth consecutive monthly increase.

Inventories were up in 16 of the 25 wholesale industries. Wholesalers in the construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry (+2.9%) and in the motor vehicle industry (+2.8%) reported the largest gains in dollar terms.

The inventory-to-sales ratio remained unchanged at 1.18 in September.

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.

Chart 3