Canada: Wholesale Trade, June 2017

Wholesale sales declined 0.5% to $61.4 billion in June following eight consecutive monthly increases. Declines were recorded in five of seven subsectors, led by the food, beverage and tobacco subsector and the motor vehicle and parts subsector.

In volume terms, wholesale sales decreased 0.7% from May to June.

In the second quarter of 2017, current dollar wholesale sales increased 2.5% while constant dollar sales increased 1.7%. For both current and constant dollars, the increase in sales in this quarter was the fifth consecutive quarterly increase.

Lower sales in five subsectors

In dollar terms, the food, beverage and tobacco subsector reported the largest decline in June, as sales decreased 1.0% to $11.9 billion. This was mainly due to lower sales in the food industry, which decreased 1.1% and offset most of the 1.2% gain observed in May. For the subsector, June’s decline was the first in five months.

Sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector dropped 1.0% to $11.4 billion on weaker sales in the motor vehicle industry (-1.7%). The decline in June partially offset the gains in May for both the subsector (+1.3%) and the industry (+1.8%). Manufacturing sales of motor vehicles, as well as imports and exports of motor vehicles and parts, also declined in June.

The wholesalers in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector posted a 0.6% decrease in June, with sales at $12.2 billion. This was the second decline in nine months for the subsector. Higher sales in the computer and communications equipment and supplies industry (+8.0%) were more than offset by lower sales in the other three industries, led by the farm, lawn and garden machinery and equipment industry (-14.9%).

The farm product subsector (-5.7% to $748 million) also recorded a decline in June.

Sales in the building material and supplies subsector remained almost unchanged at $8.5 billion.

Sales in both the miscellaneous subsector (+0.3% to $8.1 billion) and the personal and household goods subsector (+0.3% to $8.5 billion) edged up in June.

Sales down in six provinces

In June, sales declined in six provinces with Alberta contributing the most to the decline, followed by Quebec and Manitoba.

Sales in Alberta fell 3.7% to $6.5 billion. This was the first decline in nine months for the province. While sales declined in all but one subsector, the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector contributed the most to the decline as sales decreased 8.0% to $2.0 billion in June, offsetting most of the gain in this subsector in May.

The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (-7.2%) was also the main contributor to the lower sales in Quebec, where sales decreased 0.9% to $10.9 billion with four of seven subsectors reporting declines.

Manitoba saw its sales decline 5.9% to $1.6 billion in June with six of seven subsectors reporting lower sales, led by the miscellaneous subsector (-14.7%).

Sales in Nova Scotia decreased 6.4% to $869 million on lower sales in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector, which declined 18.0% to $320 million.

In Saskatchewan (-1.7% to $2.2 billion), sales declined for a second consecutive month, mainly as a result of lower sales in the miscellaneous subsector (-5.2%).

Following three consecutive increases, sales in Prince Edward Island decreased 1.5% in June to $90 million.

The largest gain in June was reported in Ontario (+0.5%) as sales in this province increased for a seventh consecutive month, to $31.7 billion. Higher sales in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+4.0% to $6.1 billion) and the miscellaneous subsector (+3.4% to $4.0 billion) more than offset lower sales in all other subsectors.

New Brunswick posted its fifth consecutive monthly increase, as sales rose 7.8% to $607 million.

While three of seven subsectors posted increases in June, sales in British Columbia grew 0.7% primarily on the strength of higher sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector (+6.9% to $887 million). This was a second consecutive increase for the province.

Sales in Newfoundland and Labrador (+3.0% to $438 million) were up for the fourth time in five months.

Inventories increase in June

Wholesale inventories rose 0.6% to $79.6 billion in June, the tenth increase in eleven months. Four of seven subsectors recorded increases, representing 68% of total wholesale inventories.

Inventories in the personal and household goods subsector rose 3.2% to a record high $14.2 billion, the largest month-over-month increase of all subsectors. This was the sixth increase over the past seven months.

Inventories in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+1.5%) recorded the second largest monthly increase, rising for a second time in three months.

The miscellaneous subsector (+0.5%) increased for a ninth consecutive month.

Inventories in the food, beverage and tobacco subsector (+0.4%) recorded a fourth consecutive increase.

The building material and supplies subsector (-1.5%) declined for the first time in seven months. This was the largest month-over-month decline for the subsector since January 2016.

The motor vehicle and parts subsector (-1.2%) recorded a decrease in inventories for the second time in 2017. Despite the decline, inventories still remain up 11.2% year over year.

The inventory-to-sales ratio increased to 1.30 in June from 1.28 in May. This ratio is a measure of the time in months required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

Research and Development in Wholesale Trade

Statistics Canada is enhancing its analytical content by providing additional reports on different aspects of the wholesale trade sector. The data used in these reports will not be limited to the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey or the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey, but will also be drawn from other sources. For this month, data on research and development were obtained from the Annual Survey of Research and Development in Canadian Industry.

Businesses often perform research and development (R&D) activities to improve their competitiveness and productivity. In this, wholesalers do not differ from other sectors of the economy.

For the three-year period from 2014 to 2016, businesses in Canada spent or planned to spend an annual average of $18 billion on performing R&D, according to the 2014 Annual Survey of Research and Development in Canadian Industry. Over the same period, the average annual expenditure of wholesalers on in-house R&D was about $1.7 billion. For 2016, it was anticipated that wholesalers would represent 11.3% of total business in-house R&D spending. For the same year, the wholesale trade sector represented 5.8% of gross domestic product.

Within the Canadian wholesale trade sector, R&D performance predominantly occurs in the machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers subsector and pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies merchant wholesalers industry.

Three-fifths of wholesale trade research and development performed in Ontario

In 2014, the most recent year for which wholesale trade in-house R&D expenditures are available by province, Ontario led with $895 million or 58.7% of this sector’s national R&D performance. Wholesalers in Quebec ($329 million) and Alberta ($169 million) followed. In 2014, wholesalers in Ontario provided employment to 7,879 full-time equivalent personnel (FTE), or 59.8% of this sector’s total R&DFTE personnel. Wholesalers in Quebec had 2,897 FTE performing R&D and Alberta had 1,103.

Wholesale trade research and development concentrated in engineering and technology and software engineering and technology

Canada is one of the few countries that provides business enterprise in-house R&D spending by detailed fields of R&D. The most recent year for which these national data are available is 2014.

For the wholesale trade sector, the total in-house R&D expenditures in Canada by field of R&D amounted to $1.5 billion in 2014. Wholesalers dedicated $924 million (60.6%) to R&D in engineering and technology and software engineering and technology. R&D in medical and health sciences followed, at $389 million or 25.5%.

Wholesale trade research and development resulted in improved goods

For 2014, Statistics Canada introduced the collection of data on the results of R&D expenditures from the previous three years.

Although wholesale trade is part of the services industries, 68.4% of total in-house and outsourced R&D expenditures by wholesalers from the previous three years resulted in improved goods, while 28.6% went towards improved services. In 2014, for all industries (including wholesale trade), these percentages were 55.3% and 43.4% respectively.


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Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell