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Wholesale trade, January 2014

Released: 2014-03-19

Wholesale sales rose 0.8% to $50.0 billion in January, following a decline in December. Gains were recorded in all subsectors except motor vehicle and parts. Excluding this subsector, wholesale sales rose 1.4%.

In volume terms, wholesale sales were up 0.4%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Wholesale sales increase in January - Description and data table
Wholesale sales increase in January

Chart 1: Wholesale sales increase in January - Description and data table

Higher sales in most subsectors

The miscellaneous subsector led the growth in wholesale sales in January, rising 3.1% to its highest level in seven months. The gain was led by the agricultural supplies industry (+7.6%), which posted its largest monthly increase since May 2013. Gains were also recorded in the chemical (except agricultural) and allied product industry (+3.0%) and the recyclable material industry (+3.7%).

The second largest increase in dollar terms occurred in the personal and household goods subsector (+2.3%) and more than offset the decline in December. All but one of the subsector's industries recorded gains.

Following two months of declines, sales in the building material and supplies subsector rose 1.6% on the strength of gains in all of its industries.

Sales increased 0.5% in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector, with the food industry (+0.3%) and the beverage industry (+6.1%) contributing equally to the gain. This was the sixth increase in seven months for the subsector.

The lone subsector to decline in January was the motor vehicle and parts subsector (-2.2%), which was down for the fourth time in five months. Lower sales were recorded in all of this subsector's industries, with the motor vehicle industry (-2.1%) contributing the most to the decline. Lower imports, exports and manufacturing sales were also recorded for motor vehicles in January.

Sales up in five provinces

Sales increased in five provinces in January, which together accounted for 46% of wholesale sales in Canada. Alberta and Saskatchewan accounted for most of the growth.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Wholesale sales up in five provinces in January - Description and data table
Wholesale sales up in five provinces in January

Chart 2: Wholesale sales up in five provinces in January - Description and data table

Following two monthly declines, sales in Alberta rose 3.2% in January. Gains were widespread across subsectors.

Sales rose in Saskatchewan (+9.4%) for the fourth time in five months. The miscellaneous subsector was the main contributor to the increase.

Sales in Quebec rose 0.5% following two monthly declines, but the gain in January did not offset the decrease in December.

British Columbia (+0.5%) recorded its 9th gain in 12 months, with sales rising to their highest level to date.

After reaching a record high in November 2013, sales in Ontario (-0.2%) decreased for the second consecutive month. Lower sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector contributed to the decline.

Lower sales were also recorded in New Brunswick (-1.3%), Nova Scotia (-0.2%) and Prince Edward Island (-0.6%). The food, beverage and tobacco subsector contributed to the decline in all three provinces.

Inventories rise in January

Inventories rose 1.4% to $62.3 billion in January. Gains were recorded in five of seven subsectors, representing 88% of wholesale inventories.

The largest gains in dollar terms were in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+2.9%) and the personal and household goods subsector (+2.1%).

Following four consecutive monthly declines, higher inventories were recorded in the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+1.8%).

Inventories fell 2.4% in the miscellaneous subsector, the largest monthly decline since April 2012.

The inventory-to-sales ratio rose from 1.24 in December to 1.25 in January.

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 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.

The January 2014 issue of Wholesale Trade (Catalogue number63-008-X) will soon be available.

Wholesale trade data for February will be released on April 22.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Elspeth Hazell (613-951-8090;, Distributive Trades Division.

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