Wholesale sales rose 0.9% in December to $49.6 billion, mainly as a result of higher sales in the motor vehicle and parts, and the food, beverage and tobacco products subsectors.
December's increase in wholesale sales was the seventh in the last eight months of the year.
In volume terms, wholesale sales were up 1.3% in December.
Wholesale sales increase in December
Motor vehicle sales post the strongest gain
In December, four of the seven subsectors, representing 71% of wholesale sales, reported increases.
The motor vehicle and parts subsector (+3.4%) posted the strongest gain. Sales in this subsector reached $8.4 billion in December, their highest level since March 2007.
December's increase in sales in the motor vehicle and parts subsector was entirely the result of higher sales in the motor vehicle industry (+3.1%) and the new motor vehicle parts and accessories industry (+4.3%).
Wholesale sales of food, beverage and tobacco products rose 1.8% as a result of increased sales in the food products industry (+1.9%), which accounts for almost 90% of this subsector. Sales in this industry strengthened throughout most of 2011.
The building materials and supplies subsector (+0.7%) and the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector (+0.4%) reported gains in December.
The miscellaneous subsector posted the largest decline in dollars, with sales down 0.9% in December.
Provinces: Sales growth concentrated in the East
Sales increased in six provinces in December.
Ontario and Quebec wholesalers contributed the most in dollar terms to the national increase. Wholesalers in those two provinces benefited from higher sales in the motor vehicle and parts, and the food, beverage and tobacco products subsectors.
Ontario saw its wholesale sales advance 1.3% to $24.6 billion in December, while Quebec posted gains of 1.5%. These increases follow several months of relatively stable sales in the two provinces.
In Western Canada, only Manitoba (+3.7%) recorded higher sales. Saskatchewan (-3.3%) posted the largest decline, with a second consecutive month of decreasing sales.
Of the four Atlantic provinces, three reported gains. Sales in Prince Edward Island declined 1.6%.
Inventories rose 1.4% in December to $58.5 billion. Overall, 18 of the 25 industry groups reported an increase in their inventories.
Inventories increase in December
Wholesalers in the agricultural supplies industry (+9.9%) and the construction, forestry, mining and industrial machinery, equipment and supplies industry (+1.8%) reported the largest inventory gains in dollar terms.
The inventory-to-sales ratio rose to 1.18 in December from 1.17 in November.
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 2011
On an annual basis, wholesale sales rose to $577 billion in 2011, up 7.4% from the previous year. This increase is slightly smaller than that seen in 2010, which was the strongest annual growth since 1997.
All seven component subsectors in wholesale trade registered increases in 2011. The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector posted the strongest gains in dollar terms, followed by miscellaneous wholesalers.
The motor vehicle and parts subsector, which accounted for most of the increase in 2010, recorded slower growth in 2011. Sales in this subsector may have been affected by the supply disruptions stemming from the earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011.
Wholesale sales rose in all provinces. Saskatchewan recorded the strongest gains in 2011, with a growth rate exceeding 20%.
Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.
All annual comparisons in this release use the sum of unadjusted monthly data. With the release of data in April, seasonally adjusted monthly figures for 2011 will be revised to equal the sum of the unadjusted data.
Wholesale sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using import and industry product price indexes. Since many of the goods sold by wholesalers are imported, fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar can have an important influence on the prices of goods bought and sold by wholesalers.
The wholesale sales series in chained (2002) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2002 as the reference year.
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