Wholesale sales in Canada fell 0.1% to C$85.6B in March, led by the miscellaneous subsector and the machinery equipment and supplies subsector; inventories increased 0.7% to C$131.9B: Statistics Canada

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OTTAWA , May 15, 2023 (press release) –

Wholesale sales excluding petroleum fell 0.1% to $85.6 billion in March. Sales fell in four of the seven subsectors. The decrease in sales was mainly led by the miscellaneous subsector and the machinery equipment and supplies subsector. Despite the monthly decrease in the sector, wholesale sales (excluding oilseeds, grains and petroleum) were higher (+6.9%) than in March 2022.

Starting with this release, petroleum products data will be available within data tables, but the analytical text excludes the petroleum subsector for comparison purposes with the previous month. Next month's release will be reported with petroleum analysis.

Constant dollar sales excluding petroleum fell 0.3% in March 2023.

Chart 1: Wholesale sales decrease in March

Lower sales in the miscellaneous subsector leads the decline in March
Sales in the miscellaneous subsector fell 6.1% to $11.4 billion in March. Despite the majority of industry groups reporting a monthly increase, lower sales of the agricultural supplies industry group (-15.5% to $4.1 billion) led the subsector to an overall decline. This is both the first monthly decline in the year and the first monthly decline since December 2022 for this industry group.

The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector also contributed to the wholesale sector decline, down 2.0% to $18.0 billion in March. The decline of the computer and communications equipment and supplies industry group (-9.2% to $4.9 billion) influenced the drop of the overall subsector. Month over month, there has been a slowdown of sales in this industry, and this trend is also seen with lower imports of electronic and electrical equipment and computers and computer peripherals.

Partially offsetting the decline in the wholesale sector was higher sales from the farm product subsector, reporting an increase of 19.1% to $4.7 billion in March.

Sales from Quebec lead provincial increase
Sales increased in the majority of provinces in March, led by higher sales in Quebec, followed by Ontario and British Columbia.

Wholesale sales in Quebec rose 7.0% to $16.0 billion in March. Sales grew in all seven subsectors, with the largest increase coming from the food, beverage and tobacco subsector (+8.7% to $3.7 billion), followed by the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+7.0% to $2.6 billion).

Sales in Ontario increased by 1.5% to $43.7 billion in March, with the building material and supplies subsector taking the lead (+5.1% to $5.4 billion). Additionally, sales from the personal and household goods subsector contributed to Ontario's increase, up by 3.0% to $7.2 billion.

Inventories continue to grow in March
Wholesale inventories rose 0.7% to $131.9 billion in March, the fourth consecutive monthly increase. Increased inventories were reported in three of the seven subsectors, led by the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector (+5.9%), machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+2.2%) and the building material and supplies subsector (+2.5%).

The inventory-to-sales ratio increase from 1.52 in February to 1.54 in March. This ratio is a measure of the time (in months) required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current levels.

Wholesale sales experience slower growth in the first quarter of 2023
In the first quarter of 2023, wholesale sales (excluding oilseeds and grains, and petroleum) increased 0.5% to $249.4 billion, reporting slower growth due to lower sales in February and March 2023. The Canadian survey on business conditions reporting on the first quarter of 2023 indicated that businesses in wholesale trade were the most likely to expect supply chain challenges in the first three months of the year.

The largest growth in quarterly sales came from the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+3.7% to $54.3 billion) and the personal and household goods subsector (+4.1% to $35.7 billion). On an annual basis, quarterly sales grew 4.6% in the first quarter of 2023 when compared with the same quarter of 2022.

Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars unless otherwise noted.

Seasonally adjusted data are data that have been modified to eliminate the effect of seasonal and calendar influences to allow for more meaningful comparisons of economic conditions from period to period. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Section 2: Issues related to analysis and interpretation.

Trend-cycle estimates are included in selected charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. These data represent a smoothed version of the seasonally adjusted time series (see Section 1: Concepts and definitions) and provide information on longer-term movements, including underlying changes in direction in the series. For information on trend-cycle data, see Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Both seasonally adjusted data and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially for reference months near the end of the series or during periods of economic disruptions.

Total wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using relevant price indexes. The wholesale sales series in chained (2012) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index, with 2012 as the reference year. For more information, see "Deflation of wholesale sales."

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 business-to-business electronic markets, and agents and brokers (NAICS 419).

Real-time data tables
Real-time data tables 20-10-0019-01, 20-10-0020-01 and 20-10-0005-01 will be updated soon.

Next release
Wholesale trade data for April will be released on June 16.

The product "Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: Interactive Tool" (Catalogue number71-607-X) is available online. This product is based on the data published in the tables of the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey: 20-10-0074-01, 20-10-0076-01 and 20-10-0003-01.

Contact information
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: This press release omits select charts and/or marketing language for editorial clarity. Click here to view the full report.

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