North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Canada 2017 Version 3.0


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41 - Wholesale trade

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in wholesaling merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise.

The wholesaling process is an intermediate step in the distribution of goods. Many wholesalers are 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.

Sales of capital goods or durable non-consumer goods used in the production of goods and services, such as farm machinery and equipment, heavy duty trucks, and industrial machinery, are always included in wholesale trade.

Wholesalers sell merchandise to other businesses and normally operate from a warehouse or office. These warehouses and offices are characterized by having little or no display of merchandise. In addition, neither the design nor the location of the premises is intended to solicit walk-in traffic. Wholesalers do not normally use advertising directed to the general public. Customers are generally reached initially via telephone, in-person marketing, or by specialized advertising that may include Internet and other electronic means. Follow-up are either vendor-initiated or client initiated, generally based on previous sales, and typically exhibit strong ties between sellers and buyers.

This sector comprises two main types of wholesalers: merchant wholesalers that sell goods on own account and wholesale electronic markets, agents, and brokers that arrange sales and purchases for others generally for a commission or fee.

Merchants wholesalers

Merchant wholesalers buy and sell merchandise on their own account, that is, they take title to the goods they sell. They generally operate from warehouse or office locations and they may ship from their own inventory or arrange for the shipment of goods directly from the supplier to the client. 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 labelling, inventory management, shipping, handling of warranty claims, in-store or co-op promotions, and product training.

Merchants wholesalers are known by a variety of trade designations depending on their relationship with suppliers or customers, or the distribution method they employ. Examples include wholesale merchants, wholesale distributors, drop shippers, rack-jobbers, import-export merchants, and banner wholesalers.

Included as merchant wholesalers are sales branches or offices (but not retail stores) maintained by manufacturing, refining, or mining enterprises apart from their plants or mines for the purpose of marketing their products.

Merchant wholesalers also include units that completely outsource the transformation process but do not own the input materials. These units are in fact buying the completed good from the producer with the intention to resell it. These units may design the goods being manufactured, and may have some say in the manufacturing process. On the other hand, units that completely outsource the transformation process but own the inputs are classified to the manufacturing sector.

The first eight subsectors of wholesale trade comprise merchant wholesalers. The grouping of these establishments into industry groups and industries is based on the merchandise line or lines supplied by the wholesaler.

Business-to business electronic markets, and agents and brokers

Business-to business electronic markets, and wholesale trade agents and brokers arrange for the purchase or sale of goods owned by others, generally for a commission or fee. They are known as business-to-business (B2B) electronic markets, wholesale trade agents and brokers, commission merchants, import-export agents and brokers, auction companies, and manufacturer's representatives. These establishments operate from offices and generally do not own or handle the goods they sell.

418 - Miscellaneous merchant wholesalersCAN

This subsector comprises establishments, not classified to any other subsector, primarily engaged in wholesaling merchandise, such as recyclable materials, paper, paper products and disposable plastic products, agricultural supplies, chemicals and allied products, logs and wood chips, minerals, ores and precious metals, and second-hand goods (except machinery and automotive).

  • Exclusion(s)

    • wholesaling used automotive parts and accessories (See 415 Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories merchant wholesalers)
    • wholesaling used machinery (See 417 Machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers)

4181 - Recyclable material merchant wholesalers

This industry group comprises establishments primarily engaged in wholesaling recyclable metals, paper and paperboard, and other recyclable materials.

  • Exclusion(s)

    • operating facilities in which recyclable materials are removed from waste, or mixed recyclable materials are sorted into distinct categories and prepared for shipment (See 562920 Material recovery facilities)
41811 - Recyclable metal merchant wholesalersCAN

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in buying, breaking up, sorting and selling ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal, including automobiles for scrap.

41812 - Recyclable paper and paperboard merchant wholesalersCAN

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in buying, breaking up, sorting and selling used newspaper, paperboard and other papers.

41819 - Other recyclable material merchant wholesalersCAN

This industry comprises establishments, not classified to any other industry, primarily engaged in buying, breaking up, sorting, grinding, shredding and selling recyclable materials, such as plastic, glass, textiles, liquids and sludges.

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