Analysis — March 2012

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Wholesale sales rose 0.4% in March to $48.7 billion. Higher sales were reported in three of the seven subsectors, accounting for almost half of total wholesale sales.

In the last 12 months, Canadian wholesalers posted nine monthly increases, which translated into a growth rate of 6.0% relative to March 2011.

In volume terms, wholesale sales were unchanged in March.

Chart 1

Motor vehicle sales post the largest gain

In March, the largest increase in dollar terms was in the motor vehicle and parts subsector. If this subsector is excluded, wholesale sales were unchanged.

Sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector rose 2.4% to $8.0 billion in March. The advance largely reflected higher sales in the motor vehicle industry.

After declining in the previous two months, wholesale sales of food, beverages and tobacco grew 1.3% in March as a result of higher sales in the food industry (+1.4%), which makes up nearly 90% of this subsector.

Sales in the building materials and supplies subsector increased 1.7% in March on the strength of higher sales in all of its components.

The largest decline in dollars was in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector.

Sales in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector fell 1.4%, reflecting lower sales in all of its industries. The leading contributor was the computer and communications equipment and supplies industry, where sales were down 2.7%.

Quebec leads in sales growth

In March, five provinces posted gains.

Wholesalers in Quebec contributed the most to the national increase, followed by wholesalers in Ontario. Both provinces benefited from growth in sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector and the food, beverage and tobacco subsector.

In Quebec, sales were up 2.3%, the highest growth rate since January 2011. The increase followed several months of relatively flat sales in the province.

Ontario posted a 0.6% increase in wholesale sales in March, its second consecutive advance.

In Western Canada, only Manitoba (+1.8%) saw higher sales. The largest sales decrease was in Saskatchewan (-7.2%), its fourth decline in five months.

Inventories continue to rise

Inventories grew 0.9% to $59.6 billion in March. Inventories were up in 15 of the 25 industries.

Wholesalers in the construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry (+3.3%) and the personal goods industry (+6.3%) had the largest inventory increases in dollar terms.

The inventory-to-sales ratio was unchanged at 1.22 in March.

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.

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.

Chart 3