Analysis — October 2012

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Wholesale sales advanced 0.9% to $49.2 billion in October, following a decline of 1.5% the previous month. Higher sales were reported in six of seven subsectors, representing 87% of wholesale sales.

In volume terms, wholesale sales were up 0.8%.

Chart 1

Widespread sales increases

In October, the largest advance in dollar terms was in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector, where sales increased 1.2% to $9.6 billion. The food industry, which accounts for 90% of the subsector, gained 1.2%.

The motor vehicle and parts subsector rose 1.0%, its first increase in four months. The new motor vehicle parts and accessories industry (+3.9%) was responsible for over 90% of the subsector's growth. The motor vehicle industry edged up 0.1% for the month.

Sales in the personal and household goods subsector grew 1.2% in October, following two consecutive monthly declines. The pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies industry (+3.8%) accounted for most of the increase, more than offsetting the decline in September.

The miscellaneous subsector posted lower sales for a sixth consecutive month, falling 0.3%. This was the subsector's lowest level since November 2010. Lower sales in the other miscellaneous industry (-3.0%) and the recyclable material industry (-8.1%) offset gains in the agricultural supplies industry (+6.1%) in October.

Wholesale sales up in most provinces

In October, sales were up in eight provinces, with Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia accounting for most of the national increase.

The largest increase in dollar terms was in Quebec, where sales rose 2.8% after a decline of 1.9% in September. Higher sales across several subsectors contributed to the growth in October.

Sales in Saskatchewan were up 5.6%, following four consecutive monthly declines.

In British Columbia, sales increased 1.8%, more than offsetting a decline in September. Sales in this province have generally been on an upward trend since April 2009.

The largest decrease in dollar terms was in Ontario, where sales fell 0.4%. After peaking in June 2012, sales have declined in three of the past four months.

Inventories increase slightly

Inventories edged up 0.2% to $61.5 billion in October, posting their 10th increase in 11 months. Overall, 12 of the 25 industries registered higher inventories.

The largest increases in dollar terms were in the construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry (+1.2%) and the agricultural supplies industry (+3.9%).

The inventory-to-sales ratio declined from 1.26 in September to 1.25 in October.

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. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

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.

Chart 4