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Wholesale trade, December 2015

Released: 2016-02-18

Wholesale sales

$57.2 billion

December 2015


(monthly change)

Wholesale sales rose 2.0% to $57.2 billion in December. Gains were recorded in four of seven subsectors, accounting for 66% of wholesale sales, and were led by the motor vehicle and parts subsector. Excluding this subsector, wholesale sales edged up 0.1%.

In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 1.8% in December.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Wholesale sales increase in December
Wholesale sales increase in December

Higher sales in four of seven subsectors

The motor vehicle and parts subsector recorded the largest gain in dollar terms in December, rising 10.6% to $11.3 billion. The motor vehicle industry (+13.7%) accounted for most of the gain, recording its second consecutive monthly increase. The sales in December were the highest on record for both this industry and its subsector. Increases in exports and imports of motor vehicles and parts, and manufacturing sales of motor vehicles were also recorded in December.

Sales in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector rose 1.3% to $11.0 billion in December, their second increase in three months. Higher sales in the food industry (+1.1%) and the cigarette and tobacco product industry (+6.1%) were the largest contributors to the increase.

The personal and household goods and building material and supplies subsectors both rose 1.0% to $7.9 billion. The personal and household goods subsector posted gains in four of its six industries.

Sales in the miscellaneous subsector declined for the second time in six months, down 2.6% to $7.3 billion. Three of the five industries in the subsector recorded lower sales, led by the other miscellaneous industry (-7.5%).

Sales up in eight provinces

In December, higher sales were recorded in eight provinces, together accounting for 97% of wholesale sales. In dollar terms, Ontario contributed the most to the gain.

Ontario and Quebec both recorded a second consecutive monthly increase in December, and sales for each province reached their highest levels on record. Sales rose 2.6% to $29.1 billion in Ontario on the strength of gains in the motor vehicle and parts subsector, while sales in Quebec increased 2.1% to $10.4 billion, led by higher sales in the personal and household goods subsector.

In Alberta, sales increased 1.4% to $6.5 billion—their highest level in four months—on the strength of gains in several subsectors. This was the province's second consecutive increase. Despite the gain, Alberta's sales in December were 9.4% lower than in December 2014.

Sales in Nova Scotia rose 6.0% to $869 million on the strength of gains in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector.

Sales reached their lowest level in five months in both Manitoba, down 2.7% to $1.4 billion, and Newfoundland and Labrador, down 8.3% to $432 million. The miscellaneous subsector contributed the most to the decline in both provinces.

Inventories edge down in December

Wholesale inventories edged down 0.1% to $72.9 billion in December, a second consecutive decrease. Three of seven subsectors reported declines, accounting for 56% of wholesale inventories. The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector posted the largest decrease.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Wholesale inventories edge down in December
Wholesale inventories edge down in December

Lower inventories in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (-1.2%), the motor vehicle and parts subsector (-0.6%), and the miscellaneous subsector (-0.1%) more than offset increases in the other four subsectors.

The personal and household goods subsector (+1.1%) recorded the largest gain in dollar terms, followed by the building material and supplies subsector (+0.6%).

The inventory-to-sales ratio declined from 1.30 in November to 1.27 in December. This was the lowest ratio since December 2014, when it was 1.23. 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.

Widespread growth in wholesale sales in 2015

On an annual basis, wholesale sales totalled $661 billion in 2015, up 4.0% from 2014. This was the sixth consecutive year of annual growth.

All of the seven wholesale trade subsectors covered by the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey recorded higher annual sales in 2015. The motor vehicle and parts subsector recorded the largest increase in dollar terms.

In 2015, all provinces except Alberta recorded higher sales. However, all provinces, except Quebec, recorded slower growth in 2015 than in 2014. Ontario, which accounted for 50% of wholesale sales in 2015, was the largest contributor in dollar terms to the national gain.

  Note to readers

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

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 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).

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM tables 081-8011, 081-8012 and 081-8015 will be updated on February 25. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Wholesale trade data for January will be released on March 17.


The December 2015 issue of Wholesale Trade (Catalogue number63-008-X) will soon be available.

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 John Burton (613-862-4878;, Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade Division.

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