Wholesale Trade Commodity Survey by Origin and Destination

Detailed information for 2001





Record number:


Data release - January 21, 2004


Note: As of the 2008 reference year, these data are collected through the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (record #2445).

The wholesale trade sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in wholesaling merchandise and providing related logistics, marketing and support services. The wholesale process is generally an intermediate step in the distribution of merchandise; many wholesalers are therefore organized to sell merchandise in large quantities to retailers, and business and institutional clients. However, some wholesalers, in particular those that supply non-consumer capital goods, sell merchandise in single units to final users.

In recent years, there has been a growing need for better inter-provincial/territorial detail and more commodity-specific information, largely due to free trade, increased international marketing and increased global competition.

There are a variety of organizations, sector associations and levels of government who make use of the information provided. Wholesalers can use survey results to compare their financial performance against the average for similar types of businesses as well as for marketing purposes, to help determine market share and help to examine trends in sources and destination of goods. Wholesale associations are better able to monitor industry growth and promote their wholesale industries. Investors may be better able to monitor industry performance, which could result in better access to investment capital by wholesalers. Governments will be better able to understand the role of wholesalers in the economy, which will aid in the development of labour force policies and tax incentives. The data is an important input to the provincial trade flows and the generation of balanced provincial input-output tables and the articulation of provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Statistical activity

The survey is administered as part of the Unified Enterprise Survey program (UES). The UES program has been designed to integrate, gradually over time, the approximately 200 separate business surveys into a single master survey program. The UES aims at collecting more industry and product detail at the provincial level than was previously possible while avoiding overlap between different survey questionnaires. The redesigned business survey questionnaires have a consistent look, structure and content. The unified approach makes reporting easier for firms operating in different industries because they can provide similar information for each branch operation. This way they avoid having to respond to questionnaires that differ for each industry in terms of format, wording and even concepts.


  • Retail and wholesale
  • Wholesale sales and inventories

Data sources and methodology

Target population

Wholesalers are classified according to 78 detailed industries under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), based on their status as either wholesale merchants under NAICS classification 4111 to 4189 inclusive, or as wholesale agents, under the NAICS 4191 classification. The wholesale sector now further includes non-employer as well as employer businesses operating in Canada.

The target population consists of all wholesale merchant establishments operating in Canada for at least one day during the reference year. Wholesale agents and brokers are excluded.

Wholesale merchants buy and sell merchandise on their own account, that is, they take title to the goods they sell. In addition to the sale of goods, they may provide, or arrange for the provision of, logistics, marketing and support services, such as packaging and labeling, inventory management, shipping, handling of warranty claims, in-store or co-op promotions, and product training. Dealers of machinery and equipment, such as dealers of farm machinery and heavy-duty trucks, also fall within this category.

Instrument design

The questionnaire content was developed by the Content Development Group in conjunction with Subject Matter areas and then field tested with respondents via focus groups. This was to ensure that the questions, concepts and terminology were appropriate from a conceptual and respondent point of view. This included an assessment of respondents' willingness to respond; to determine whether respondents understood the questions and what to report; to investigate the compatibility of questions and response categories with respondents' record-keeping practices; to identify problems or difficulties that respondents may have in retrieving information and in completing questionnaires; to verify the translations were correct; to obtain respondents' suggestions about how to improve the questionnaires and to ensure the questionnaires were respondent-friendly.

The survey was conducted using the mail-out/mail-back questionnaire approach as well as using Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) for capture, edit and follow-up.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Two sources were used to derive the sample from the target population: a probability sample survey of wholesaling establishments, and taxation data to estimate for small businesses below a prescribed threshold.

Before sample selection, the survey population is delineated into cells of establishments. Each cell comprises all establishments operating within the same (given) province and whose activities belong to the same (given) Trade Group (aggregated NAICS) within a given enterprise. Each enterprise therefore may have one or many clusters of establishments within one or many Trade Groups or Provinces/Territories. Each of these clusters of establishments belonging to the same enterprise is called a sampling unit.

Within each cell, four size strata are created to group businesses of a similar size. The boundaries are determined using total estimated revenues for the businesses. The resulting groups are one take-all stratum of the largest businesses (which are all included in the sample), two take-some strata (from which representative samples are selected) and one take-none stratum (containing small businesses which are not eligible to be sampled). Optimal stratum boundaries or thresholds are determined to minimize the total sample size.

Following the sample selection process, data for the take-all and take-some strata are collected through questionnaires. For those units belonging to the take-none stratum, a sample of administrative (tax) records is used to model origin and destination estimates.

All sampled units are assigned a sampling weight. An initial weight equal to the inverse of the original probability of selection is assigned to each entity. The sampling weight is a raising factor attached to each sampled unit to obtain estimates for the population. For example, if two units are selected at random and with equal probability out of a population of 10 units, then each selected unit represents five units in the population, and it is given a sampling weight of five. These weights are subsequently adjusted, at the time of producing survey results, to reflect the most up-to-date population counts. The final set of weights therefore reflects as closely as possible the characteristics of the population in this industry.

The sample comprised approximately 14,140 establishments which were subsequently clustered into approximately 9,553 sampling clusters. The clusters are further segmented into their respective provincial / territorial components for questionnaire generation.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data collection, data capture, preliminary editing and follow-up of non-respondents are all done by the Operations and Integration Division of Statistics Canada. The survey is conducted using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) pre-contact approach to identify commodities handled by the respondent prior to mailing of the questionnaire. Companies reporting only one major commodity line are often collected during this pre-contact phase. The pre-contact and capture application allows, for each respondent, the identification of major commodity line(s) handled, as well as data capture, edit and follow-up.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

Once available, reported data are examined for completeness and consistency using automated editing coupled with analytical review. Extreme values are listed for manual inspection in an order of priority decided by the size of the deviation from average behaviour. These outliers are excluded from use in the calculation of imputation variables by the imputation system.


Estimates are imputed for enterprises which were unable to respond on time, provided some unreliable reported values, or ceased their activities during the year. During this step, totals for sales and cost of goods sold are benchmarked to the 2001 Wholesale Annual Survey (record number 2445).


The reported (or imputed) values for each establishment in the sample are multiplied by the weight for that establishment and these weighted values are summed to produce estimates. The final estimates were derived by combining the survey estimates and the estimates modelled from taxation data.

Estimates are computed at several levels of interest such as trade group and province, based on the most recent classification information available from the Business Register for the statistical entity and the survey reference period. It should be noted that this classification information may differ from the original sampling strata because records may have changed in size, industry, or location. Changes in classification are reflected immediately in the estimates.

Quality evaluation

Prior to the data release, combined survey results are analyzed for comparability; in general, this includes a detailed review of: individual responses (especially for the largest companies), general economic conditions, and historic trends.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Data for a specific industry or variable may be suppressed (along with that of a second industry or variable) if the number of enterprises in the population is too low.

Confidentiality analysis includes the detection of possible "direct disclosure" , which occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of a few respondents or when the cell is dominated by a few companies.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

The methodology for this survey has been designed to control errors and to minimize their potential effects. However, the results of the survey remain subject to error due to sampling and non-sampling error -- e.g., coverage, response and processing error, and errors as a result of non-response.

The target population is identified from Statistics Canada's Central Frame Data Base (CFDB). This business register is kept up to date using administrative information on businesses received monthly from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, as well as information from Statistics Canada surveys and business profiling activities. Adjustment factors are also applied to the estimates so as to reflect updates to the target population discovered during the collection cycle that were not reflected in the original population.

With respondent co-operation, follow-up, and editing and imputation procedures, the level of response and processing error, as well as the effects of non-response are controlled. Prior to adjustments such as benchmarking, the weighted response rate for the Canada total is close to fifty percent. Application of the adjustments ensures that the survey estimates agree with known control totals for the provinces and territories.

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