Wholesalers mark record year in 2019

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Wholesale trade financial estimates.

Ottawa, ON—For the wholesale trade in Canada, 2019 posted a decent year in operating revenue as it rose 2 per cent. This marks an all-time high of $1.1 trillion, reports Statistics Canada. Seven of the nine wholesale subsectors saw increases in revenue. The building material and supplies subsector was one of the two that reported a decline in revenue. They reported a 2.9 per cent decrease to $107.3 billion, as wholesalers of lumber, millwork, hardware, and other building supplies saw their revenue decline by 6.8 per cent to $52.3 billion.

For the province of Ontario, wholesale operating revenue remained the highest amongst all other provinces—increasing 3.5 per cent to $447.7 billion. The only operating revenue declines in Ontario were in the building material and supplies subsector (down 4.2 per cent) and the petroleum and petroleum product subsector (down 7.8 per cent).

Alberta and Quebec

The cost of goods in Canada sold—the cost of acquiring goods for resale—grew in line with revenue to reach $947.7 billion in 2019. As a result, gross margins for wholesalers were unchanged at 16.8 per cent. This is the difference between total operating revenue and the costs of goods sold. Total operating expenses, which include labour remuneration, were up 4.5 per cent to $136.9 billion. Total operating expenses increased in all subsectors.

Overall, the operating profits of wholesalers as a percentage of total operating revenue decreased from 5.1 per cent in 2018 to 4.8 per cent in 2019, as revenue growth failed to keep up with rising expenses.

Alberta reported a 0.3 per cent annual decline in operating revenue to $306.2 billion. This was largely attributable to the petroleum and petroleum product subsector (down 1.2 per cent), which accounted for over two-thirds of wholesalers’ operating revenue in the province. Five of the nine wholesale subsectors in Alberta saw their revenue increase. The second-largest wholesale subsector in Alberta was machinery, equipment and supplies, which posted a slight decline in operating revenue to $27.3 billion.

Wholesalers in Quebec posted the third-highest provincial operating revenue in 2019 at $175.6 billion. All nine wholesale subsectors posted higher operating revenue in 2019 compared with 2018.

In 2019, Canadian wholesalers sold over $1.1 trillion worth of commodities. Higher sales were seen in 37 of the 60 commodity subclasses. Six additional commodity subclasses were made available in 2019 due to the cannabis market. Total sales of cannabis products reached $675.5 million.

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